4 years, 5 months ago
As we had previously discussed, a recent visit by National Security Advisor Jim Jones to the front lines in Afghanistan was an opportunity to say, one Marine to another, you get no more support from us. You’re on your own.
During the briefing, (Brig. Gen. Lawrence) Nicholson had told Jones that he was “a little light,” more than hinting that he could use more forces, probably thousands more. “We don’t have enough force to go everywhere,” Nicholson said.
But Jones recalled how Obama had initially decided to deploy additional forces this year. “At a table much like this,” Jones said, referring to the polished wood table in the White House Situation Room, “the president’s principals met and agreed to recommend 17,000 more troops for Afghanistan.” The principals — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Gates; Mullen; and the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair — made this recommendation in February during the first full month of the Obama administration. The president approved the deployments, which included Nicholson’s Marines.
Soon after that, Jones said, the principals told the president, “oops,” we need an additional 4,000 to help train the Afghan army.
“They then said, ‘If you do all that, we think we can turn this around,’ ” Jones said, reminding the Marines here that the president had quickly approved and publicly announced the additional 4,000.
Now suppose you’re the president, Jones told them, and the requests come into the White House for yet more force. How do you think Obama might look at this? Jones asked, casting his eyes around the colonels. How do you think he might feel?
Jones let the question hang in the air-conditioned, fluorescent-lighted room. Nicholson and the colonels said nothing.
Well, Jones went on, after all those additional troops, 17,000 plus 4,000 more, if there were new requests for force now, the president would quite likely have “a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment.” Everyone in the room caught the phonetic reference to WTF — which in the military and elsewhere means “What the [expletive]?”
Nicholson and his colonels — all or nearly all veterans of Iraq — seemed to blanch at the unambiguous message that this might be all the troops they were going to get.
To which The Captain’s Journal responded:
It’s his job – while all of the other principals are outlining a strategy and force projection that they believe will be endorsed by the President – to be whispering in the ear of the President: “Listen to them, but only so far. Iraq has taught us that this is harder than we think it will be on our first or even second or third take. If they’re telling you that the Afghan National Army can substitute for our own troops, they aren’t accounting for the drug addiction, incompetence and treachery of the Afghan Army. This will be long term, protracted, part of the long war. Iraq was long and hard, and Petraeus rightly said that Afghanistan would be the longest engagement in the long war. Fully expect for them to come back asking for more troops, because they will need them. You are a wartime President, sir.”
But his malfeasance in office gets even worse, and we recently learned about the apparently extent of the error in his Afghanistan narrative.
How this is Obama’s war as opposed to America’s war we aren’t told. Nor are we told how sending more troops to kill Taliban and secure Afghanistan is risky to the campaign in this horrible report. The report is mostly worthless, except for what we learn about Jones, who said:
The arrival of new troops, coupled with a strategy that is much broader, and that is more multifaceted, has the potential to turn this thing around in reasonably short order.
Really? Seriously? In reasonably short order? Remember those words. So what is this new strategy?
“This will not be won by the military alone,” Jones said in an interview during his trip. “We tried that for six years.” He also said: “The piece of the strategy that has to work in the next year is economic development. If that is not done right, there are not enough troops in the world to succeed.”
This statement is remarkable not for what it advocates – the softer side of counterinsurgency and nation building – but for what it doesn’t. Michael Yon’s most recent report from Afghanistan shows the need for a vibrant economy in order to prevent low level insurgents from earning money by working for the hard core Taliban. But Jones misleads us when he states that we have tried military action alone for six years.
There has been significant effort put into construction, projects (consider for instance the Kajaki Dam and the effort placed into reclaiming the ring road), and nation building (see The U.S. Department of Agriculture Does COIN). More could be done, but it isn’t correct to assert that there has been no effort placed into economic development.
It is equally incorrect to say that the military option has been tried. No, the high value target campaign conducted by clandestine SF operators against mid-level Taliban commanders has been tried. Classical counterinsurgency with significant military force projection (like with the Marines in the Anbar Province of Iraq) hasn’t been tried until now. And hence, the reason the Marine Colonels went ashen when they heard Jones say that they had all of the troops they were going to get. They come from the Anbar Province, and they thought that they were going into the Helmand Province of Afghanistan to conduct classical counterinsurgency. Apparently not, and so there will remain vast amounts of territory in the hands of the Taliban.
As for economic revitalization while the Taliban still roam free, Philip Smucker gives us a look into what this means.
QALA-I-NAW, Badghis province – At dusk when the sun slips over the parched hills in northwestern Afghanistan, spreading a pink hue over the land, families and caravans stop to spend the night in the poorest province in the poorest country of Asia. The wells are dry, lights do not burn and hopes remain muted.
This is a story about people living in an arid, unforgiving moonscape; one that could be mistaken for the middle of nowhere, but could one day be a major stop on one of the most important highways in Asia.
For three years, the United States, China, the Asian Development Bank and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have promised the residents of Badghis province integration with the rest of Asia. They have vowed to complete the last link of Afghanistan’s national ring road, which will connect western China and Central Asian countries through Afghanistan with Iranian seaports and world markets.
Blocking the way, however, is an expanding Taliban insurgency, which feeds off the idea that the world does not care enough to complete the work. As attacks on road workers have increased and US-led NATO offensives have failed to pacify the region, the stakes have grown ever higher.
“Promises have been given and most of them have been broken,” said Monshi Ramazan, the embittered head of the Badghis’ provincial council. Meanwhile, Taliban attacks on government and NATO’s mostly-Spanish forces are up by 300% in the past three years.
Halima Ralipaima, the head of Badghis’ Women’s Affairs Department, said that she had been “unable to travel in the province for two years” and that her workers were now being kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban. She said the Taliban were threatening to destroy even small educational gains for girls made since late 2001 when the Taliban were driven from power.
Delays in completing the road – effectively managed by insurgents determined to stop it – have led Western analysts and NATO officials to warn that the Taliban are gaining steady support across Badghis. Once far-removed from the fighting elsewhere in Afghanistan, Badghis, they say, has become a new insurgent base and the Taliban’s “gateway to the north” – the same route to conquest that the insurgents took in the mid-1990s when they rose to power.
There are signs, however, that with an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 Taliban fighters now lying in wait for Chinese and Afghan road workers, NATO and the United States military are finally taking the threat – and their own promises – seriously.
… it wasn’t until five months on the job, last September, that 55-year-old Tucker of Charlotte, North Carolina, realized that “we had given the highways away to the enemy. I was shocked,” he said in an interview.
Tucker found out the hard way when he asked for air support in northwest Afghanistan from the massive NATO and US base in Kandahar and was told that the helicopters he needed were required for southern resupply operations. “I told them that they should resupply by vehicle and the answer back was that, ‘we don’t control the roads’,” said Tucker, who sniped that the Kandahar base had become little more than a NATO “R&R facility”.
“That is what happens when you are running around trying to kill the enemy in a zero-sum game and you don’t have enough troops,” he said.
Worse still, even though Jones knows that the Colonels need more troops and that economic revitalization won’t occur without security, his narrative is that some economic development can “turn this thing around in reasonably short order.”
If we have learned anything from the experience in Iraq, it is that there must be national and institutional patience. Counterinsurgency done right takes a long time, and Petraeus himself said that of the campaigns in the so-called long war, Afghanistan would be longest.
I did a week-long assessment in 2005 at (then Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld’s request. Following our return, I told him that Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign of what we then termed “the long war.” Having just been to Afghanistan a month or so ago, I think that that remains a valid assessment. Moreover, the trends have clearly been in the wrong direction.
So not only has James Jones told the Colonels that they don’t really need the troops they say they need, and not only is he purveying the wrong narrative about what we have done in Afghanistan, he is asserting that the “new strategy” will turn the campaign around in reasonably short order with Petraeus asserting that it would be the longest of the campaigns in the long war.
Jim Jones is not a serious man. He is clearly way over his head in the office of National Security Advisor, and the narrative that he is peddling is not just wrong – it is dangerous because it is so misleading. It’s time for Jones to tender his resignation as National Security Advisor and allow someone to tackle the job who is up to the job. It’s time for the General to retire.
Prior on Jones: Afghanistan: The WTF? War
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