Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Being in Afghanistan II

It is an increasing dilemma with our presence in Afghanistan. But I still don't see a justifiable reason for staying. It looks like we are being seen as occupiers as the government in Afghanistan is corrupt and we have alloted some $189 billion according to the Congressional Research Service.

General McChrystal seems to want to ratchet up the war with more troops. But he is not the president of the United States. Even though he is the general on the ground, he needs to get in line. I don't think it was by accident that his report requesting for more troops was leaked.

In an earlier post, Being in Afghanistan, I asked some question to which I still have not received answers. So, I will ask them again:

Can someone please tell me why we are in Afghanistan? If the answer is essentially the former president's response of taking a "just" war to them so they won't bring their "holy" war to us, can someone please tell me like I'm a two-year old what is the plan and exit strategy? Doesn't war just seem unjust and unholy?
Charlie Wilson, the congressman that launched his own private war in essence by supporting the Afghans militarily after the Soviets occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Mr. Wilson spoke of Afghanistan in a recent interview:

"It's probably best to make a calculated withdrawal," he said. "If I were the president, I'm not sure what I'd do. I'd probably shut it down, rather than lose a lot of soldiers and treasure."


Pamela said...

Afghanistan is a mess! We won't pull out without Bin Laden's head. If so, then it'll be another Iraq years down the road- a re-visit.

We need to deploy more troops simply because we have put at risk the troops we have already committed over there.

This war was poorly funded and poorly manned and frankly poorly managed. We spent more in one month in Iraq then the entire time we have been in Afghanistan.

Now since time has passed their is a strong hold and Bin Laden is hiding in the terrain in some cave of some mountain laughing at us.

We will have to approach this globally. To employ the support of other nations. Many are now withdrawing support because of recent blood shed.

There will more than likely be a surge of troops, stability to the Afghanistan area and forces, and an attempt to smoke out Bin Laden and then a draw down and finally a withdrawal.

We more than likely thought this would be another Desert Storm, which by many accounts was successful.

The President inherited this war along with a tremedous amount of debt. This war was asleep in the media and everywhere else until the Republicans wanted to throw every accusation against this current administration that they could find. Somebody please tell them the election is over--they lost. Or are they running three years early?

Americans do not have the stomach for war. These countries have been fighting and mopping blood from the streets for years and years.

It is my understanding troops feel better about supporting Afghanistan. They understand the mission.

Judith Ellis said...

Thank you, Pam, for your thoughtful comment.

I am at this very moment watching "Charlie Rose" with Richard Engel, a reporter who as spent many years in Afghanistan and Iraq embedded with the troops. He says that in Iraq people ran to soldiers asking for help to emigrate to Canada or how to start a business. He says in Afghanistan the people just look at them with the eyes of "what are you doing here? It's a different country. These people do not seem interested in being "liberated."

Why not bring them all home strategically as was suggested in the post? I'm assuming that the same kind of rationale was used in Vietnam. The whole Bin Laden thing is not enough for me. You kill him and another leader will rise. Why not target him if he is who you're after? Engle is now talking about the drones that are not favorable because they don't hit their marks. Why risk the lives of so many soldiers for one man?

"Americans do not have the stomach for war. These countries have been fighting and mopping blood from the streets for years and years."

This is the reason why I'm wondering if we should get the hell out of there? Can we even be successful in any regard? Engle is saying that the Taliban do not fear the Taliban. It seems that we are the ones who cause the fighting, according to Engel. "The Afghans," he said, "are not asking for protection" as the Iraqis did.

Engel says that "$300 Billion dollar" has been spent Afghanistan and he asks where did it go? He then speaks of all of the contracts and schemes where these contractual companies defrauded the tax payers. And the Republicans in Congress want to de-fund ACORN who had received something like 5 million dollars yearly to get poor people and minorities to vote. THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!) Also, I'm not sure if the troops feeling good about being there is a reason to actually be there. What's the plan?

Engel says you can't leave and you have to send in more troops for the short time. He says that NATO failed. Okay, I'm going to stop writing and really listen. Maybe I'll say more later.

Dave Wheeler said...

According to President Obama...

“It’s time to heed the call from General McKiernan and others for more troops. That’s why I’d send at least two or three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan. We also need more training for Afghan Security forces, more non-military assistance to help Afghans develop alternatives to poppy farming, more safeguards to prevent corruption, and a new effort to crack down on cross-border terrorism. Only a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes Afghanistan and the fight against al Qaeda will succeed, and that’s the change I’ll bring to the White House.”

–Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), in a speech Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia on national security policy.
And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism," Obama said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think one of the biggest mistakes we've made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq," he said. Obama said troop levels must increase in Afghanistan.
"For at least a year now, I have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three," he told CBS. "I think it's very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate our military activities."

The President's words during the campaign show he believed that Afghanistan should be the focal point of our war on terror. He repeatedly called for sending more troops...2 or 3 country. It is not General McChrystals who spoke of the need to "rachet up the war" and it is his job to advise the Commander in Chief of what is needed in country. As for an exit wasn't articulated during the campaign or since the President has taken office as best I can tell...I'm still looking however.

Judith Ellis said...

Dave - Thanks for your comment. I know that you have been in the military for many years. This I honor and respect. But are you saying that just because the President made a speech as a candidate that he can't change his position as the President? I imagine that you never really know the full weight of the office until you are in this position getting those daily security reports.

For many Americans I think it's probably pretty clear what the role of a general is. (By the way, I watched General Petreaus whole speech yesterday on C-Span as he addressed the "Counterinsurgency Leadership in Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond.") Although it is clear what the role of the general is, history proves that generals often challenge presidents with regards to policy from Grant to Lee up to McChrystal, so it seems.

From what I've read and heard about McChrystal he seems to seeking to drive policy. Who do you suspect leaked his confidential report to the public where the language was so dire without the President's knowledge? You can bet that it wasn't the White House. It seemed very much like a tactical move of a general.

Dave Wheeler said...


I am saying I expect the President to change his policy when troops are in harms way when the situation mandates it. I would also expect the reasons or rationale for doing so would be explained in the same visible and vocal manner by which his policy was articulated during the campaign. A change in strategy in the interests of national policy or security is one thing. A change for political expediency or purposes is another. If you aren't going to give the troops the resources they need to accomplish the mission you task them to do, get them out of harms way immediately.

In a March 27 speech President Obama announced his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of counter-insurgency or COIN. General McCrystal was tasked by the Secretary of Defense to write his initial assessment of what would be needed to implement the President's counter-insurgency strategy as he was specifically picked to replace General McKiernan who was fired in May 2009. I read the report ( and found it addressed the areas that the President articulated in his March speech. This report makes no mention of troop strength as Secretary Gates said it would not before it was released. Couple the President's policy and the General's report...the General wasn't driving policy. He was accessing capacity and capability to execute what the President wanted done.

As for the leak...why would the General leak a report that many think was that didn't mention troop strength anyway? Some say to force the President's hand for more troops...makes zero sense when when considers the policy he was assessing was the President's not his own. Maybe General McCrystal is being made the scapegoat by the someone in the administration who is looking for justification to not increase troop strength in Afghanistan to placate the far left wing of the President's party. Who knows and who cares. The President needs to give the troops what they need to achieve the mission he articulated in his policy or get them the hell out of harms way now and explain the reason for the change. His speech and the General's report both use the words "under resourced" to describe our effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Bush administration can't be blamed for this one...he wasn't in office in March 2009

Pamela said...

I did not like the fact of a "leak" or "leaked" comments. The President is the Commander in Chief of the US Military, period!!! He's thoughts for the record--publicly is everyone elses thoughts underneath him. Whatever conversations they had privately were just that private. In this new age of media frenzy and transperancy some things can get sticky. For protection of our troops and our global stance some things are better left unreported and muddy. Then later let's release the information to the public. We can not explain to the letter our plans--hello this is not safe--they have televisions, internet and technology over seas. We have so many people lives at stake.

Now, we did not enter Iraq this last time, neither did we enter Afghanistan to liberate the people of that country. Iraq did not request us to liberate them we went chasing weapons of mass destruction--there weren't just a fire cracker and a bottle rocket. We went in to Afghanistan for Bin Laden and his organization.

You can not pull troops without it being somewhat stable this will cost more lives of our troops. This was proven in Vietnam.

War is not pretty. Our soldiers lives are at stake; however, it is my understanding they sign up to serve their country and when the mission is clear they are willing to do so. They honor and and respect the Commander and Chief, they honor their country. We should honor them with our support, not with just words but with more arm power.

I hope this helps Jude. I know it's hard to justify war and the lost of lives. But we are there now we have to finish so they can come home.

God Bless all of our troops

Judith Ellis said...

Dave- First of all, last things first. It is utterly foolish for anyone to think that politics in politics is of one political party. Of course, no one in the Bush administration leaked the document in March 2009. I have not read it, but what is for certain is that President Bush started the war then immediately began another in Iraq and that is where the resources went. The problem seems that our men in Afghanistan have been in harms way for 8 years. I had not thought of the fact that someone in the president's administration may have leaked the McCrystal report for their purposes. That too is probable. Historically, though, Democrats have played the political game slightly different and this seems like to me an effort on the right to do just as you have done here to quote speeches from the campaign and say see here is proof that we need to send more troops.

To be absolutely clear, I am not saying that more troops will not be needed. But I think the president is doing a wise and prudent thing by not just moving forward hurriedly after General McCrystal’s report. (I accept the scenario that you have given here, Dave. Thank you.) We do not want another Vietnam and the words of Charlie Wilson have some impact in that he too knows the terrain and minds et of the people there. I so appreciated the Richard Engel interview on "Charlie Rose." He said more troops are probably needed for the stability of the troops there but does not see a long-term strategy there as unlike Iraq there has never really been a centralized government. The people in Afghanistan and Pakistan want to go on living exactly the way they are living with the support of the drug trade in Europe and Asia and funneled through other parts of the world. We will probably not change this, nor should we try...

Judith Ellis said...

...Dave, what gives you the slightest hint that President Obama is acting out of political reasons and not for the security of our country and for the betterment of our own economic security? While the president ultimately makes the decision the people, needless to say, have a voice in this through our representative democracy. Pam says that we don't have the stomach for war and she is right. I think I read a poll that 60% of Americans (right, left and otherwise) think that we should pull out of Afghanistan. It seems to have always been a destabilized place and we should not seek to stabilize it. Now, that we are in there I have heard the term that we need to make an honorable exit. This is probably right--although the entrance seems not to have been honorable. You do not declare war, send troops there do not hold the alliance with NATO together and then leave office.

Secretary of Defense Gates is a Republican and is a holdover from the Bush administration. From what I have read about him and from what I have heard from him, he seems like a thoughtful and exact kind of guy. I'm sure that he recommended General McCrystal to President Obama. Regarding the whole counter-insurgency thing, we still need a strategy. Many, however, think that this is impossible in this terrain among mountain fighters who know their land like no others. As in Vietnam, we have teenagers and young people out there fighting from places like California and Indiana. My cousin Sam has spent two tours in Afghanistan. He does know bout such terrains. He's an upper middle class kid from Indiana who wanted to serve his country. He also served in Iraq.

Frankly, I have grave doubts about whether a war of any kind can be won in Afghanistan. As Engel said there has never been a stable government there and the people see us as occupiers. They are not on our side. So, it really doesn't matter what our mission is with regards to counter-insurgency this is there country and not ours. We better have a backup plan. The government there which we supported is seen as fraudulent. I don't see us winning there. But I am not on the inside and do not have the information that those in Washington do, but I think the president will soon inform us of his administration's plan in moving forward with regards to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I think he SHOULD listen to the people. We are, after all, the government. It doesn't have to be relative to a sinister political decision that we are now taking a hard look at our situation over there with the release of McCrystal's report.

Judith Ellis said...

Pam - Thank you so much for that. I agree wholeheartedly with you with regards to leaks, the troops, and the inheritance of the war and extraordinary debt. People somehow seem to forget that. Of course, it is now President Obama's job now. Yes, the troops were put in harm's way by the last administration and I would probably agree that an abrupt exit might make it more difficult. I do NOT have the answers. I'm just thinking things over. I appreciate you and Dave. I know that your husband has served in the military for many years and your take, as well as Dave's, is from a different perspective than someone like me who have simply followed these things closely for years.

My mother was an ardent follower of national and international politics and we were expected in conversation to say something thoughtful, whether it was on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq or Iran. I was a kid during the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty with Anwar Sadat and Menachum Begin, but I remember the discussions in our house like it was yesterday. Nothing has changed among the siblings we still debate national and international politics are active citizens. We are Republicans and Democrats, but I must say that over these last eight years and the utter disaster that the Republican Party is becoming of late, we are more Democrats and Independents now. There are still a few Republican strong holds among us and we embrace them. :-)

My heart always aches over war for all sides: soliders, mothers, fathers and kids.

Dave Wheeler said...


What I meant by this being an issue that could not be blamed on the Bush administration wasn't in reference to the leaked is the policy "change" that the President articulated in his March speech to . He laid out the plan, General McCrystal made an assessment on the situation and needs to execute the strategy. The President, Gates, General McCrystal all agree the the Afghanistan/Pakistan effort was under resourced. I believe the report was delivered to Secretary Gates around August 30th...why no action some what, 40 days later? Give them what they need per the President's March or get them out of harms way and explain why your plan changed.

My original comment regarding the leak was "Who cares"? One could come up with many plausible explanations as to who was responsible or why. The President frequently and repeatedly has spoken of the need to increase troop strength by two or three battalions to support his Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, not just in one or two campaign speeches. What has changed on the ground in Afghanistan or Pakistan over the past six months since the President announced his plan to necessitate this so called "strategic review" to look at a plan that has yet to have even been implemented? Coalition causalities in Afghanistan in July, August, and September 2009 have reached all time 8 year highs, one that would seem to indicate the need for action either way (give them additional resources or pull them out).

Were I looking for a political motivation for the administration leaking the report to scapegoat the general I would probably link it to the healthcare reform that was going to be passed before the summer recess that wasn't. There is a bigger mystery to me however...where have all the anti-war protestors gone since the election?

As for your "Historically, though, Democrats have played the political game slightly different and this seems like to me an effort on the right to do just as you have done here to quote speeches from the campaign and say see here is proof that we need to send more troops" comment, I thought my point was clear...I never said we needed to send more troops. I said give the troops the resources they need or get them the hell out of harms way...
If we should have learned anything about Afghanistan it would be from the Soviet Unions experience there...had we done that 8 years ago or today, you would definitely be fighting a different type of war...

Pamela..."But we are there now we have to finish so they can come home." Bless you Ma'am!

Judith Ellis said...

What does "finishing" the war look like? Is it like the Vietnam War? Is it like the war in Iraq with a "Mission Accomplished" sign?” It is the some $300 BILLION unaccountable dollars that was suppose to be for the Afghanistan war but instead went into the pockets of large US contractors with no discerning different in Afghanistan but fattened the pockets of executives and increased the bottom-line of corporations? War is BIG BUSINESS!

While I think some may have legitimate reasons for staying in Afghanistan for the safety of our troops, other want a continued embroiled fight for the profitable gains. The industrial war complex that Eisenhower spoke of is a real deal. But then it benefited the people as it put Americans to work building. It was then a major boost to the economy. Think World War 1 and World War II. Now, what we seem to have more is a racket at the expense of the troops.

The war in Afghanistan does not seem winnable and it seems highly unlikely that we will “finish” it. The people of THAT COUNTRY have a say and they don’t seem to be interested in our liberating them or our counter-insurgency with a government that seems corrupt that the US has backed. The Karzai government seems to have no legitimacy. Then, we wonder why we can’t keep a NATO alliance together

The heroin business according to Engel with it multiple BILLIONS annually seems like for some in Europe especially to be a reason to not fight but to provide other kinds of support. Maybe this is the real reason for the breakdown in the NATO alliance come to think of it. The troops seem caught in the drug war and the profiteering war. This seems to be the real shame in Afghanistan even amid our revengeful and honorable goals. The honor for many is non-existence in war.

At first glance when I read your possible theory between the war and health care, I said this seems silly, as my heart is with the real issue of care and providing insurance for those without. But then I realized that many Democrats seemed to sign unto the Iraq war for domestic reasons in support of Cheney’s agenda. He seemed to have been doing the negotiations for the president and his former firm Halliburton on the Hill. This was some serious, as in deadly, horse trading.

I accept your explanation above with regards to your saying support the war or bring the troops home. My statment was a misrepresntation of your words. I was actually referring more to the former part of the statement and not the latter as it relates to your seemingly particular philosophy.

Thanks for your comment, friend.