Debate is still raging over whether President Obama was right to dismiss General Stanley McChrystal
from his duty as top U.S.
commander in Afghanistan and replace him with General David Petraeus
, the current chief of Central Command.
But for Petraeus and the 120,000 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan,
the politics probably seem far less important than the question of how
to find success in Afghanistan. The war effort has struggled of late,
with the assaults in Marjah and Kandahar returning less favorable results than hoped. Here are the ideas for how Petraeus can turn it
- Build Consensus in DC The New York Times' Dexter Filkins and
Alissa Rubins write, "Perhaps General Petraeus's toughest challenge
will be to unify a fractious team of senior officials in the Obama
administration who hold sharply differing views of how the war in
Afghanistan should be fought. As the head of the United States Central
Command, which oversees all military forces in the Middle East, General
Petraeus has built a close relationship with Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton, as well with Richard C. Holbrooke, the special
representative for the region."
- More Than Just
Counterinsurgency Time's Joe Klein says counterinsurgency
"was not the only thing that worked in Iraq. Petraeus' decision to
purchase the Sunni tribes in Anwar province -- the Bush Administration
had considered tribes "part of the past" until then -- undermined the
insurgency and separated the professional, al-Qaeda terrorists from the
indigenous population. Most important was the untold story of the
spectacular success that the special-operations forces led by McChrystal
suddenly began to have in rooting out the bad guys. ... The success in
Iraq was attributable to what the military calls full-spectrum warfare,
the use of all the tools in its kit, but it was COIN that emerged as the
headliner -- an oversimplification that has had dire ramifications in
- Don't Force Early Withdrawal Former Afghan
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali writes,
"Afghans aren't likely to worry about the command change since it will
not significantly affect the ISAF Command. What concerns most people is
whether the U.S. forces will stay in Afghanistan long enough to allow
the country to build its own capacity to respond to security and
governance challenges. The specter of an early U.S. military draw down
is the strongest factor that shapes the behavior of the insurgents, the
Afghan public and regional powers."
- ...But Don't Stay Forever
The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran
cautions, "in turning to the nation's most prominent general, Obama
has embraced a commander who may become a formidable advocate for
slowing, or arresting outright, the pace of troop reductions next
summer. ... Petraeus, who initially resisted the size and speed of a
drawdown in Iraq, also minimized the importance of an end-of-year review
of the Afghan war that Obama has described as crucial to assessing its
progress and whether adjustments need to be made in the strategy."
Carefully With Your 'Allies' Former McChrystal adviser Andrew Exum warns, "unlike in
Iraq, he is liable to find not only the Taliban but also his nominal
allies threatening progress every step of the way." Exum explains,
"Petraeus will quickly discover that while challenging the organization
culture of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps was difficult, challenging the
organizational cultures of the 38 nations that contribute to the
International Security and Assistance Force (I.S.A.F.) in Afghanistan is
orders of magnitude more complicated."
- Will He Return the Air
War? Wired's Noah Shachtman writes,
"Most famously and dramatically, McChrystal severely
restricted the use of air power -- America's biggest technological
advantage in the war. The bombs were causing too many civilian
casualties, he reasoned. ... The trend line went in the opposite
direction, after Petraeus took over the Iraq war in January 2007. ...
McChrystal's strict guidelines triggered all kinds of grumbling from
frontline troops, who felt hampered in their ability to fight the
Taliban. Whether or not Petraeus eases those restrictions is one of many
questions to be answered, as McChrystal's version of COIN gives way to
the Petraeus practice."
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