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McChrystal’s Power Play

resized-k4ick.jpgFrom reports of ever increasing US and NATO casualties along with continuing reports of the suffering of the Afghan people – and complete confusion over the recent election, none of the news from Afghanistan is good.

And while President Obama initially seemed to fully embrace this occupation as his very own “good war,” his administration is now sending mixed signals about what the next steps will look like. As Nancy Yousef of McClatchy writes:

The administration’s seeming indecisiveness may be due to late realization of just how big a commitment would be required to pacify Afghanistan, a senior defense official told McClatchy.

Meanwhile, support is beginning to weaken amongst democrats and even some major Democratic Senators and Congressmembers are taking a second look.

Yet none of this seems to worry Gen. McChrystal who has apparently completed his situation review and – surprise, surprise – requested more troops. Now McChrystal, through his friends at the Pentagon is trying to pressure Obama to release his report and give him carte blanche:

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

"Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far," a senior official in Kabul said. "He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure."

And while McChrystal’s team is issuing these not-so-veiled threats, they are also finding ways to slip more forces into the country without a completed policy review and Commader in Chief decision.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Defense Secretary Gates is sending 3,000 extra troops – but is calling them “enablers” and claiming the “flexibility” to ignore the limits.

On Saturday, the LA Times reported that “the nation’s spy services are under pressure from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal to improve intelligence on the Taliban and find ways to reverse a series of unsettling trends.” The result of that pressure:

The CIA is deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan, part of a broad intelligence "surge" that will make its station there among the largest in the agency’s history, U.S. officials say.

… Precise numbers are classified, but one U.S. official said the agency already has nearly 700 employees in Afghanistan.

The spies are being used in various assignments — teaming up with special forces units pursuing high-value targets, tracking public sentiment in provinces that have been shifting toward the Taliban and collecting intelligence on corruption in the Afghan government.

This CIA expansion which is closely tied to special forces operations is particularly worrisome given McChrystal’s record as head of abusive special operations teams in Iraq.

While not noting these efforts to create a de facto surge, Sen. Carl Levin yesterday did take note of the McChrystal power play, saying:

"Everyone should want the benefit of General McChrystal’s comments and recommendations, but with two caveats," Levin said during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union with John King."

"He’s just in the chain of command, and there’s higher-ups," Levin said. "This is not a situation like General Petraeus in Iraq, when the president basically said, whatever the commander in Iraq wants, he’s going to get."

Levin is just one of the US legislators who counters his unease with the likely McChrystal plan by advocating a massive increase in Afghanistan’s own military, a “solution” that presents massive problems of its own – including the fact that the Afghan economy cannot in any way support the expense of the proposed force size.

And our approach to training such an Afghan force is not going very well as Ann Jones reports in her on-the-ground report just published at Tom Dispatch. Jones’ article is a must read as she details all the ways this effort is both wrongheaded and absurd. Her analysis after spending time with the Afghan troops that: 

American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines. That is not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen — and ever faster.

Her warning is unfortunately unlikely to be heard in Washington where the giddiness of post 9/11 revenge thinking turned to face-saving good war talk – and now to slowly growing concern that there may be no good answers.

It’s clearly time for a complete re-evaluation of just why we are there at all – and what, if anything might be done right. While the generals will of course continue to push for control, our civilian leadership must insist on something more than a full employment program for the four stars.

As Steve Hynd so aptly sums it all up over at Newshoggers in response to President Obama’s comment to ABC News that he “just want[s] to make sure that everybody understands that you don’t make decisions about resources before you have the strategy ready.”:

Dude, Where’s My Strategy?

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com