I think it might have been George Santayana who quipped, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to hear this quote over and over again.”
And so here we are as the International Forces Commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. meets with President Obama to propose his plan for a residual force in Afghanistan after 2014. Interestingly enough, General Dunford was joined by US Central Command Commanding General, US Army General Lloyd Austin. General Austin was the Commander of forces in Iraq who proposed his plan for a residual force in that combat theater of operations – and we see how that ended up.
As reported in the LA Times, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan will argue for keeping about 10,000 troops in the country after this year, “a subject that has exposed a fissure between some of President Obama’s top advisors and the Pentagon.” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is recommending U.S. troops stay to help train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida-linked militants.
Coming on the heels of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ revelations in “Duty” regarding the distrust between the Obama administration and senior generals, the final decision will be interesting.
Lest we forget, when General McChrystal was the commander on the ground in Afghanistan, his requests for a troop “surge” operation were arbitrarily decreased by President Obama — and Obama summarily announced when the surge operation would end during his speech at the US Military Academy at West Point.
In order to placate Obama – and allow him to save face, General Dunford says the 10,000 should pull out by 2017, when Obama leaves office, according to two officials, confirming a Wall Street Journal report.
But, not to be outdone, that astute purveyor of military strategy, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly says:
The insurgency has been contained after 13 years of war and that Afghan security forces are strong enough to preserve security in urban and other key areas. He also says a stable Afghanistan is no longer critical to halting terrorist attacks against the United States, one official said.”
Biden and others in the Obama administration believe 1000 to 2000 troops would be sufficient, but anyone with common sense realizes those numbers would not be capable of any training or counter-terrorism mission and certainly hard-pressed for self-defense.
According to the LA Times report:
General Dunford recommended keeping only a few hundred U.S. troops if Obama rejects his plan for 10,000, officials said. Their mission would be to run an office in the U.S. Embassy that would manage military aid programs, the officials said, but not conduct training or operations.
If General Dunford’s plan is adopted, about one-sixth of the force — around 1,800 to 2,000 special operations troops — would be reserved for counter-terrorism operations. The rest would support, train and advise Afghan commanders, however they would be barred in most cases from participating in combat except for self-defense.
Most of the troops would work out of Bagram air base, north of Kabul, and at Kandahar air base in the south. A small contingent would be based around Kabul to help train Afghan forces at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC).
The real question is whether or not President Obama will engage with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, or his successor to solidify a security agreement. Or will it be a rerun of President Obama and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, where no effort was exerted and al-Qaida is right back in western Anbar Province.
Once again, President Obama’s political, campaign promises and personal agenda may be more important than vital American strategic interests. He didn’t “end the war” in Iraq, he just ran away.
I have no idea what the purpose was behind supporting combat operations in Libya, but I do know al-Qaida in the Maghreb, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other “JV” Islamic terrorist groups have free reign and are influencing events there.
President Obama drew a “red line” in Syria and then said it wasn’t his red line. The bottom line is Obama proclaimed the US would “pivot away” from the Middle East thereby allowing Islamic totalitarianism and jihadists to fill the vacuum.
There is no possible way to negotiate with the Taliban unless you support Islamic fundamentalism, which is contrary to every principle and value for which America stands – at least as far as I know.
President Obama needs to study up on Carl von Clausewitz and realize that war is about the imposition of your will upon another. Warfare is fought to achieve annihilation, assimilation, or attrition of your enemy. And in case that’s too complicated for Obama to understand, there are only two ways to end a war: win or lose.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. Photo courtesy of US Army.