Obama vs the Generals?
September 21, 2009

This morning's Washington Post's account of Stanley McChrystal's Afghanistan review isn't very surprising. We already knew that McChrystal sees the Taliban as a formidable enemy and thinks the U.S. needs an ambitious coutinerinsurgency to succeed. What is striking  is the back-and-forth, by means of background quotes, between the White House and the Pentagon in the Post's accompanying analysis piece.

UK General: Failure in Afghanistan Would "Intoxicate" Terrorists
September 18, 2009

More evidence for the idea that policymakers see "winning" in Afghanistan and an end in and of itself: The new head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards, also warned last night that Nato had yet to find the right formula for success in Afghanistan. General Richards also warned that defeat for the international coalition would have an “intoxicating impact” on extremists around the world.

Karzai Changes His Tone
September 18, 2009

For the past several months Afghan president Hamid Karzai has been lashing out at NATO forces, complaining bitterly that civilian casualities were the result of Western indifference to Afghan lives and arguing (probably correctly, though unhelpfully) that such "collateral damage" was abetting the terrorists. But in his Kabul press conference yesterday, Karzai sang a different tune when asked about one of the biggest air strike foul-ups of the war: Striking a magnanimous tone, Karzai said he would welcome Abdullah or any of his other challengers into a new government.

Lexicon Update: It's "PakAf" Now?
September 18, 2009

Al Kamen hears that's what Richard Holbrooke now calls it. The verbiage is trivial, of course, but represents an important substantive point: that nuclear-armed Pakistan is actually more important to us than the country where we have 60,000-plus troops. I've heard that the modified phrase has currency with at least one other very senior administration official.

Troop-Increase Politics
September 18, 2009

WaPo: Meanwhile, McChrystal has finished drawing up his request for what is expected to be thousands or tens of thousands of additional trainers and combat troops for Afghanistan, but he is awaiting instructions before submitting the request to the Pentagon. Senior defense officials said that, in effect, McChrystal has been asked to delay submitting the request. "We're working through the process by which we want that submitted," Gates told reporters, without elaborating. This isn't necessarily sinister in any way.

The Stockholm Syndrome
September 18, 2009

When Zvi Mazel was summoned to the Swedish Foreign Ministry back in January 2004, he knew he was in trouble. As Israel’s top diplomat in Stockholm, the 64-year-old had just done something markedly undiplomatic--not exactly rare for Israeli envoys. No, he hadn’t remarked upon the “yellow skin and slanted eyes” of Asians. No, he hadn’t taken part in a child-pornography ring.

Obama's Afghanistan Metrics
September 17, 2009

Steve Coll analyzes, and asks good questions: Here, however, is objective 3b: “Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.” There is some carefully modest language in that sentence; nonetheless, it crosses into the realm of nation-building, including the construction of political legitimacy for an Afghan government that is accused of having just tried to steal a national election.

Gates Defends Missile Shield Shift
September 17, 2009

This would seem to put conservatives in the position of bashing both a Republican defense secretary and the U.S. intelligence community: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the decision to abandon the Bush administration's plans for a land-based missile defense system in Eastern Europe came about because of a change in the U.S. perception of the threat posed by Iran. Reinforcing statements President Barack Obama made about anti-missile strategy, Gates told reporters Thursday that U.S.

Kerry: Path in Afghanistan "Less and Less Clear"
September 16, 2009

Even though Barack Obama delivered a national address in March explaining his goals for Afghanistan, John Kerry is still not convinced. From his opening statement at today's hearing: And most of all, I am concerned because at the very moment when our troops and our allies’ troops are sacrificing more and more, our plan, our path and our progress seem to be growing less and less clear.

Will McChrystal Be the Next Petraeus?
September 16, 2009

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.