On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.
Laura Rozen reports on a troubling report from retired general Barry McCaffrey and commissioned by Centcom commander David Petraeus: "The international civilian agency surge will essentially not happen ---although State Department officers, US AID, CIA, DEA, and the FBI will make vital contributions. Afghanistan over the next 2-3 years will be simply too dangerous for most civil agencies." For more on the challenge of mounting an effective civilian effort in a war zone, see this recent TNR piece by Steve Metz.
Today, the U.S. Marines kicked off a new push against bad guys in Afghanistan's fertile and poppy-rich southern province. Per the AP: Gen. David Petraeus says the Marine Corps offensive launched Friday in southern Afghanistan is part of preparations for the arrival of 30,000 new U.S. reinforcements. Petraeus told The Associated Press that the military has been working for months to extend what he called "the envelope of security" around key towns in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.... U.S.
Barack Obama's aides can pat themselves on the back today; they have succeeded in spinning the president's new troop surge as a simultaneous plan for leaving Afghanistan. And I can see honest logic there: By delivering a hard punch to the Taliban, you hope to create conditions that allow even flawed Afghan security forces to get on their feet, which may then allow for a quicker U.S. exit.
Kevin Drum thinks people, including myself, are being too hard on the Obama team when it comes to AfPak policymaking: If [Rajiv] Chandrasekar's account is correct, the fault isn't really with the Obama administration at all. It's with the military: McKiernan was on board with the counterinsurgency strategy but didn't indicate that he needed more troops to implement it.... Later, of course, McKiernan was pushed out and a new commander took a fresh look at what resources were needed. But that hardly reflects badly on Obama, and it doesn't really sound like anyone screwed up back in March. Lo
Camp Julien is surrounded by reminders of Afghanistan’s past. The coalition military base--which sits in the hills south of Kabul, just high enough to rise above the thick cloud of smog that perpetually blankets the city--is flanked by two European-style palaces built in the 1920s by the modernizing King Amanullah. Home to Soviet troops and mujahedin during the past decades of war, the now-crumbling palaces are littered with bullet holes and decorated with graffiti in multiple languages.
Our culture lives virtually without its history, which makes it a very weird culture, indeed. In France, on sabbatical a few years back, I listened to a dinner conversation about Marshal Foch. Who? Marshal Foch. How did we come around to him? Someone at the table said she'd been born in Tarbes, a small town known primarily for its proximity to Lourdes. Another guest noted that Foch had been born there. And then followed a long, discursive conversation about Foch.
Chris Orr's post about the early assembly work on Tim Pawlenty's 2012 presidential bid is interesting in that he handicaps the Minnesotan primarily in terms of who he is not: not the flip-flopping, health-care-reforming Mormon Mitt Romney, not the disorganized and "goofy" Mike Huckabee, not the divisive and erratic Sarah Palin, and not the non-candidate David Petraeus. Thus Chris captures the basic problem with Pawlenty '12: what, precisely, is his positive appeal? Yes, he's a bona fide cultural conservative; that checks an essential box, but you can't throw a rock at any Republican meeting
Largely invisible in the current debate over troop levels in Afghanistan, which has exposed some stress fractures between the Obama White House and the Pentagon, is Centcom commander David Petraeus. Given his immense credibility as the man perceived to have "saved" Iraq, Petraeus could have a potentially decisive influence on a domestic political debate about troop levels by making his own assessment known. But, while Petraeus's commentary about Iraq was once ubiquitous, today he's laying awfully low.
A conservative veteran's group wants to make it happen: Mr. Hegseth, for his part, said his group [Vets for Freedom] planned to use Gen. McChrystal's name and image in all of its mailings about Afghanistan as a way of making him the public face of the Afghan war. The idea draws heavily from the Bush administration, which used Gen. David Petraeus as an effective public surrogate during the Iraq debates. "What we're trying to do here is raise the visibility of Gen. McChrystal," he said.