Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Future in Afghanistan

The President, Wednesday last, announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.  One question going with a reduction in troops is how that will change the way we fight and the forces we will be using.

One option is to put more emphasis on Special Operations Forces (and airpower).  That would push conventional forces into a support role.  This suggests that the idea of Counter-Insurgency (COIN) will fall toward the background.  This might well be a victory of sorts for Vice President Joe Biden. 

Someone, humbly claiming status as "a lowly, lowly ink-stained wretch" put it this way:
As for P4, I take the fact that he was not chosen as CJCS and that they want to acclerate the transfer of command from September to July as indicators that Obama believes Petraeus is too heavily invested in COIN, but I could be wrong.
This view would explain the personnel moves that have taken place recently, driven by Secretary Robert Gates retiring and CIA Director Leon Panetta moving to Defense, with Army General Martin Dempsey to Chairman and General Ray Odierno as Army Chief of Staff, with General David Petraeus going to CIA. 

Afghanistan is not going away any time soon, although it might well slide back out of sight, which is what the Administration probably hopes for in 2012.  Sort of like Richard Nixon and the Viet-nam War in 1972.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Have I mentioned recently that I think it is a bad idea, from a Constitutional point of view, for the Vice President to be too closely identified with the policy making of the Administration (of which he is not actually a member) or be seen as an advocate for policies within that Administration?

  Here is a thought on this lash-up from blogger Thomas Ricks, over at Foreign Policy:
The smart money says this is a short-term play—putting an Army guy in as chairman signals that the Obama administration is very focused on dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Iraq, over the next couple of years.  The long-term play would have been guys more focussed on the Pacific and China.  I would bet that might be the next round—Dempsey's successor in four years.


nealcroz said...

Obama has NEVER supported COIN in the 'stan. The withdrawl is nothing more than a very thinly veiled political move that attempts to show his "control" over the war in Afghanistan. He had better hope that the Taliban doesn't read the play correctly and redouble their offensive rather than negotiate a way out. Given Pakistan's obvious distaste for American intervention (but love of our money), coupled with Afghanistan's inability to provide a stable peace keeping capability anytime soon, I predict that within 9 months tops, Obama will clamor for redeploying at least the numbers he is withdrawing in order to prevent the Taliban's expulsion of the remaining 70,000+ troops remaining.

IMHO, this is a President whose only concern in re the use of military assets is purely political. He is escalating the risk to the troops remaining in order to score points within his own party and the perceived far left who he thinks he can pull into his camp.

The New Englander said...

As for the personnel moves, I wouldn't read TOO far into any of those...scheduled rotations are part of the game, and it's a huge testament to Gates' well-earned reputation that he carried over this far into Obama's term. As for Petraeus (P4), it doesn't shock me either...look at the continuous optempo he's had for the past decade or so.

As for the players themselves, Ricks is right, and looking ahead we'll see DoD looking across the Pacific, and probably more relevance for the USN/USMC and their presence out there. But Bob Kaplan and lots of others have been saying that for a shocker.

A more interesting point might be the way that contractors are left out of the political equation every time troop numbers come up. Everyone gets so focused on the current number (101,000...officially) and the new post-surge goal. What no one seems to be paying attention to is the ratio of contractors to soldiers, and how much that's changed since GWOT kicked off. You can play shell games with soldier #'s by keeping "warfighters" (infantry and other maneuver elements) in the fight but pulling back on your Signals people, Logistics, Admin, etc. You can contract those jobs and pay people huge $$$$ to come out to do them. The #'s of contractors just don't tend to make headlines, so you can then cite *progress* by the fact that you've reduced green-suiters.

nealcroz said...

Excellent points.

BTW, the USMC is already declaring new life and raison d'etre in the Pacific.