Michael's Dispatches

Obama's Afghanistan plan moves much too cautiously


1 April 2009 

President Obama announced a goal to stand up 216,000 Afghan security forces by 2011. This falls far short of assessments by our own military that a security force of 400,000 is needed to secure Afghanistan.

Today there are 80,000 Afghan police and 82,000 soldiers in various stages of readiness. Obama's aim to train 54,000 new soldiers and police in 33 months, which equals about 1,600 new recruits a month, is less than bold. At this rate, approximately a dozen years and hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to reach 400,000. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

We still enjoy widespread approval from the Afghans - I recently drove about a thousand miles through Afghanistan without soldiers - but year by year, mistake by inevitable mistake, our support is eroding. On a recent trip back from Afghanistan that took us through Bahrain and Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told me privately that his biggest concern is that we could lose support from the Afghan people.

In fact, just days before in Afghanistan, I saw Gates discuss the same topic with Gen. David McKiernan. McKiernan, a highly respected officer, confirmed to Gates that support of the Afghan people remains good. But again, the clock is ticking, and everyone who is paying attention can imagine the implications of moving too slowly.

Please click to view the entire article in the NY Daily News

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Howard E Morseburg · 12 years ago
    When you don't know just who the enemy is, when it could be three of your white pieces as well as your opponents black ones, there's no way that you can win the game. The rules have been changed just as the tournament begins and he gets to select any three of yours at any time and move them to his advantage.
    That's the way I see fighting terrorism, or the way we often had to fight in Vietnam. We were fighting by long established rules; the enemy simply ignored the rules when it was convenient, but through a barrage of public statements always made it appear as if we were at fault. It is still going on and we lose the battle of the airwaves throughout the Muslim world.
    At the moment, Pres. Obama has so much popularity going for him that he could drag out the war in Afghanistan for fifteen years and still be called a genius. Not only this, but from statements already made, it is obvious that he does consider himself quite able to handle and decide military matters.
    But then, from all my comments, it probably seems as if I do as well, so who the Hell really knows, eh what?
    To me, if you're going to win, you have to be more determined, tougher, train your troops better, and take them out before they can do the same to you. That's the way I look back and assess what we did in WWII, and by doing so, we won and then brough the boys home.
    Again, we must remember that the Afghans obviously trust us, because million of them came back from the other side of the border with Pakistan. Three million people do not do that if they don't think you're doing the right thing. If they had trusted the Taliban in the first place, they'd not have fled home for abject poverty and starvation high in the mountains.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary · 12 years ago
    We keep making the mistake of thinking Middle Eastern Muslim societies are just big city slum-like neighborhoods and if we just clean them up a little and teach them our ways, they will be our happy friends. For one thing, the people are trapped in Islam under penalty of death and Shariah law governs EVERY part of their lives. Shariah law is NOT democratic. For another thing, their sense of community is extended family, perhaps with (often brutal) internal strife but with intense expectations of family loyalty and commitment. The best way for us to relate is to consider each family a corporation. Each corporation has its own security force. Each corporation has it's own president and hierarchy and bylaws. Sometimes those corporations have hostile take overs, territorial disputes, and political competition and litigation. Perhaps any national police force would have to be designed with tribal (corporate) considerations to be accepted and/or effective. Perhaps the tribal structure is the impediment or key to a security force united nationally or even regionally enough to resist the "glory" of global jihad. Perhaps juridictions can be tribal instead of geographical.

    Maybe we can help the Afghan people improve their tribal system with better security. Maybe we will just teach them how we do it, perhaps totally out of touch with how their society works, and thus expose our weaknesses. We do keep foolishly and ignorantly building up our future enemies. Teach someone how you play pool, buy them a pool stick and pool table to practice on, and they may just beat you at pool.

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