Saturday, October 03, 2009

McChrystal: up to the job?

'At midday Saturday, after visiting the hospital and flying over the bombing site in a helicopter, the team met with two local officials. The NATO officers were expecting anger and calls for compensation. What they received was a totally unanticipated sort of criticism.

"I don't agree with the rumor that there were a lot of civilian casualties," said one key local official, who said he did not want to be named because he fears Taliban retribution. "Who goes out at 2 in the morning for fuel? These were bad people, and this was a good operation."

A few hours later, McChrystal arrived at the reconstruction team's base in Kunduz. A group of leaders from the area, including the chairman of the provincial council and the police chief, were there to meet him. So, too, were members of an investigative team dispatched by President Hamid Karzai.

McChrystal began expressing sympathy "for anyone who has been hurt or killed."

The council chairman, Ahmadullah Wardak, cut him off. He wanted to talk about the deteriorating security situation in Kunduz, where Taliban activity has increased significantly in recent months. NATO forces in the area, he told the fact-finding team before McChrystal arrived, need to be acting "more strongly" in the area.

His concern is shared by some officials at the NATO mission headquarters, who contend that German troops in Kunduz have not been confronting the rise in Taliban activity with enough ground patrols and comprehensive counterinsurgency tactics.

"If we do three more operations like was done the other night, stability will come to Kunduz," Wardak told McChrystal. "If people do not want to live in peace and harmony, that's not our fault."

McChrystal seemed to be caught off guard.

"We've been too nice to the thugs," Wardak continued.'

If you read the whole piece, you get the impression that General McChrystal is just not ready to hear what the local Afghans are saying to him.

'...McChrystal still had a message to deliver. Even if the Afghan officials were not angry, he certainly did not seem pleased.

After fording the muddy river to see the bombing site -- getting his pants wet up to his knees -- he addressed a small group of journalists at the reconstruction team headquarters and said it was "clear there were some civilians harmed at that site." He said NATO would fully investigate the incident.

"It's a serious event that's going to be a test of whether we are willing to be transparent and whether we are willing to show that we are going to protect the Afghan people," he said.'

My overall impression of McChrystal so far is not positive. There is no possible way in war to stop innocents from dying. You can attempt where possible to minimize the effects of war, but never completely. Except by ceasing to engage the enemy. The rules of engagement as they now stand make it nigh on impossible for the war in Afghanistan to be prosecuted. McChrystal is so focused on the PR show that his number one task, successfully eliminating the Taliban seems to have dropped out of view.

There is NO POSSIBLE WAY to sanitize a war, any war, engaged in by the United States, so that the left wing in America and all the America-haters worldwide will be placated. None. It is not possible. If you do what they insist this week, next week they will be back with ever more stringent limitations on what you can do.

So? Do not engage in the fantasy to begin with. Innocent people are going to die during the elimination of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But, and this is a hugely important but, if you take your time, and fanny about with moronic rules of engagement, many many more innocents will die as a consequence. The war will rumble on and on, and the Taliban will learn more and more about our tactics and how to nullify them, and the public support for the mission will gradually fade away and eventually the US will pull out. And it will have lost- PR-wise and in fact. So will the Afghan people, who can look forward to a future of seventh century islamic ignorance, boredom and violence.

Afghanistan is not similar to Iraq- but just as the US evolved a way to win in Iraq, both militarily and politically, it can do the same in Afghanistan. I'm just not sure that plodding simpleton McChrystal is the man to do it. And Barack Obama is not the judge of character to notice. Poor Afghanistan.

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