The Mask Falls Off

It’s official. Obama hates the military and he’s not even trying to hide it anymore.

Obama’s War With the Pentagon

James Jones is out as national security adviser; Tom Donilon is in. What does it mean? Among other things, that we may be headed for one of the greatest civilian-military showdowns in decades.

If you haven’t read Bob Woodward or Jonathan Alter’s accounts of Obama administration Afghan policy, here are the CliffsNotes: Since the moment Obama took office, the military, led by David Petraeus, has been pushing for a full-on counterinsurgency effort. In other words, a lot of troops for a very long time. Obama, from the start, has resisted, raising awkward questions about why we’re expending massive amounts of blood and treasure in Afghanistan when Pakistan is the country that really matters. Vice President Biden has gone further, warning that given the mind-boggling corruption of Hamid Karzai’s regime, committing to an Afghan counterinsurgency war would be lunacy.

This policy struggle has not been waged according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules. The White House believes the military brass is blind to America’s crushing financial constraints and the public’s eroding support for the war. The military believes the White House cares more about domestic politics than national security. The White House believes the military keeps screwing the president by telling reporters and Republicans that we need more troops for a longer time, thus forcing Obama’s hand.

General Jones was chosen, in part, because Obama knew this fight was coming. He wanted someone who could communicate with the generals and keep them from knifing him in the back. Jones didn’t entirely succeed in that effort, which is one reason people in the White House never embraced him as one of their own. But if Jones was unable or unwilling to extinguish the flames of civil-military conflict, Donilon is the political equivalent of dousing them with gasoline.

See also:
Commander-in-Chief Obama Fights Pentagon
Tom Donilon’s Revolving Door
Departing National Security Adviser Leaves Mixed Reviews
A Political Hack and Fannie Mae Democrat
Hope is not a strategy: James Jones
10 reasons to be worried as Tom Donilon, Afghan war sceptic & desk-bound foe of US military, gets top foreign policy job
The declinists win
Gates in 2010: Donilon Would Be a “disaster” as National Security Adviser; Jones: Donilon Has “No Credibility With the Military”
Woodward: Gates Thinks Donilon A “Disaster”
Gates downplays quoted objection to Obama adviser

This move proves that if Obama could snap his fingers and eliminate the U.S. military, he would do so without hesitation.

/this does not bode well for our brave troops in harm’s way, fighting the Taliban is hard enough, they shouldn’t also have to fight their commander in chief

You’ve Got To Get Out To Get In

“Retreat Hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.”
(Attributed to Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC, Korea, December 1950.)

Afghanistan war: US leaves remote outpost of Korengal

It became known as “Enemy Central,” a small, isolated slice of eastern Afghanistan synonymous with violence, a dogged adversary and, increasingly, futility. More than 40 US soldiers have died there after being drawn into battles of attrition for questionable return. In the worst such incident, 16 American troops on a special forces mission were killed when their helicopter crashed under enemy fire.

Now the last US troops have pulled out of the Korengal valley on the grounds that they can be better used somewhere else. “This repositioning, in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, responds to the requirements of the new population-centric counterinsurgency strategy,” Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, joint commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement on NATO’s website. “The move does not prevent forces from rapidly responding, as necessary, to crises there in Korengal and in other parts of the region, as well.”

Part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy is to pull troops back from remote mountain outposts and concentrate them in the towns and villages where more of the Afghan population lives. By putting the emphasis on protecting civilians instead of killing Taliban fighters, he hopes to drive a wedge between the two, isolating and alienating the insurgents.

The withdrawal in Korengal – a short tributary valley so isolated that its inhabitants speak their own language – has been going on for months. Combat Outpost Vegas, high up in the valley, closed last year. But US military officials have said in the past that the strategy was delayed by a shortage of cargo helicopters, military bureaucracy, and Afghan politics.

And it is not just Korengal that is seeing American forces depart. The US footprint in nearby Nuristan Province – the mountain highlands that were the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s tale of imperial hubris, “The Man Who Would Be King,” has all but vanished, too. Two separate attacks in 2008 and 2009 saw a total of 17 US soldiers die when insurgents overran their outposts in remarkably similar circumstances.

The signs in Nuristan, though, are encouraging. Since the US pulled all its troops out of Kamdesh district, the scene of the most recent of these battles, Taliban-linked insurgents have been on the back foot as local communities and elders turn against them.

See also:
ISAF Units Realign in Eastern Afghanistan
American troops pull out of Korengal Valley as strategy shifts
US forces leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder
After the bloodshed, the leaving
US leave, Taliban claim victory
Korangal valley
Hi-Def Pics – One of the Heaviest Taliban Combat Areas: Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (15 photos)

Well, McChrystal wrote the U.S. book on counterinsurgency, so he certainly knows what he’s doing, given the terrain and number of troops available, we certainly can’t occupy every square inch of Afghanistan. Besides the bloody fighting for limited returns, it also appears that our very presence in the Korengal valley was counterproductive to positive relations with the local civilian population living in the area. Not only weren’t we accomplishing much militarily, we weren’t winning any hearts and minds either, better to redeploy our limited resources and try our luck somewhere else.

/all that said, it doesn’t mean the Taliban and the Lefty media won’t be doing a happy dance while spinning this withdrawal as a propaganda victory and an American defeat

All Your Al Qaeda Caves Are Belong To Us

Pakistan Seizes Insurgent Stronghold on Afghan Border

Pakistani forces have seized a key al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold along the border with Afghanistan that once served as a hideout for Ayman al Zawahiri, second-in-command to Osama bin Laden.

The capture of Damadola, a district in the Bajaur tribal region, is a major success in Pakistan’s counterinsurgency campaign. The area had long been dominated by insurgents operating on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistani forces seized the scenic district late last month, after several days of fierce fighting that Pakistan said left more than 75 foreign and local militants dead. Pakistan’s military took reporters to the site, which is surrounded by snow-capped mountains less than five kilometers from the Afghan border, for the first time Tuesday.

“It was the main hub of militancy where al Qaeda operatives had moved freely,” said Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the regional commander.

A complex of caves and fortified compounds made it more difficult for the Pakistani forces to dislodge the insurgents.

“They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex,” said Gen. Khan, who is head of the Frontier Corps responsible for Pakistan’s counterinsurgency campaign in the region.

Gen. Khan said his forces have cleared the area to the Afghan border and that the campaign against the insurgents there was in its final stage. He said the development would help the U.S.-led troops fighting the insurgents across the border.

Tribesmen in the area have formed militias to defend their villages and have vowed to to back the military in fighting the militants. “We will not let the Taliban to return to our villages,” said Sultan Khan, a local farmer.

The Pakistani army first mounted an operation in Bajaur in August 2008 and claimed victory in February 2009, but violence resumed when the army’s focus switched to Pakistani Taliban fighters in the northwestern valley of Swat and the border region of South Waziristan.

It took almost 18 months for the military to fully dislodge the insurgents. But the army’s hold remains tentative, with top insurgent commanders escaping to surrounding areas. Damadola is a strategically important region that offers access to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s northern district of Chitral, the main highway to China and to Swat.

See also:
Pakistan’s Army takes control of al-Qaeda cave network on Afghan border
Al Qaeda’s Pakistan Lair Captured
Pakistan seizes Taliban and Al Qaeda cave network
Pakistan ‘takes over’ Taliban base
Offensive gives Pakistani government control of Taliban cave, tunnel complex
Pakistan finds secret al-Qaeda and Taliban underground cave complex
Large Network Of 156 Taliban Caves Found In Pakistan
Taliban network of 156 caves discovered in Pakistan mountains
Taliban stronghold in Bajaur falls, Pak forces plan Khyber offensive
Army takes control of Bajaur Agency
Forces regain control of Bajaur
Troops seize Damadola for first time
Pakistan takes key al-Qaida stronghold
Troops secure Bajaur
Security forces declare final victory in Bajaur

Way to go Pakistan for capturing a key piece of al Qaeda and Taliban real estate!

/too bad the previous owners weren’t home at the time

Fourth Time’s A Charm?

Pakistan Launches Waziristan Offensive

The Pakistani military launched a major ground offensive Saturday in the insurgent haven of South Waziristan, starting a much-awaited fight that could define the nation’s increasingly bloody domestic struggle against Islamist extremism.

Pakistani officials said nearly 30,000 troops were deployed in the Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold, from which militants have planned a two-week-long string of attacks against the nation’s formidable security forces.

The assaults have killed nearly 200 people and further destabilized a weak government that the United States has pressed to take a tougher stand against militancy. Now, with public alarm rising and winter snowfall approaching, Pakistani officials indicated they could wait no longer.

“There has to be consensus in the face of what is clearly now a war,” said Sherry Rehman, a ruling party lawmaker. “We have to treat this as a battle for Pakistan’s survival.”

The offensive is a gamble. Pakistani forces retreated after three previous, but far smaller, incursions into South Waziristan, an essentially ungoverned terrain of ridges and peaks that is unfamiliar to most except the tribes that live there. It is a potential vortex for the Pakistani army, which has been trained to battle archenemy India on the plains of the Punjab province, not conduct alpine counterinsurgency operations.

To succeed, experts on the insurgency said, the military will need to stunt the leadership of the feared Mehsud network of the Pakistani Taliban, which has regrouped since its chief was killed by a U.S. missile strike in August. The military will have to do that without alienating civilians in the area, they said, and before winter sets in. The operation is expected to last six to eight weeks, said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman.

“The stakes for both sides are enormous,” said Bruce Hoffman, a counterinsurgency expert at Georgetown University. “The attacks of the past couple weeks demonstrate that the militants are really concerned . . . and that will have increased the ardor of the Pakistani forces to succeed. But it’s also an indication of why they can’t fail — the threat is already manifest.”

See also:
Pakistani Troops Attack Taliban in South Waziristan Stronghold
Pakistani Army begins Waziristan offensive
11 militants die in ground offensive against militants in S. Waziristan
The ground offensive
FACTBOX-The battle in Pakistan’s South Waziristan
Pakistan Troops Launch Offensive Against Taliban In Stronghold Of South Waziristan
Pakistani Military Launches Ground Offensive into South Waziristan
Pakistan sends 30,000 troops for all-out assault on Taliban
Pakistan Opens Offensive in a Militant Stronghold
Pakistan launches risky offensive into Taliban-Al Qaeda stronghold
Pakistan imposes curfew in South Waziristan
Eyewitness: At the edge of war
Thousands Flee Pakistan’s S. Waziristan Region
Pakistan Government Must Prepare for S. Waziristan Displacement Crisis, Says Amnesty International
Baitullah Mehsud Network, mother of all evils: ISPR spokesman

Three times previously the Pakistani Army has ventured forth into South Waziristan and three times previously they have settled for “making peace” with the Taliban. The Pakistan government and people have been burned by these “truces” all three times. There is no making peace with the Talkiban, the only solution is their utter destruction.

Until the Pakistan government physically cleans out and gains sovereign control over Waziristan and the northern tribal areas, the Taliban will be free to continue to plan and carry out attacks and al Qaeda will continue to have a safe haven. For the sake of some modicum of stability in the region, let’s all hope that this fourth time’s a charm and that the Pakistani Army is finally serious about crushing the Taliban threat once and for all.

/no hudna this time, all the marbles, total war, in it to win it, it’s not over until the entire Taliban senior leadership is captured or killed, their heads displayed on pikes would be an appropriate, well deserved fate for these pirates of civilization

Slouching Toward The Exit Door In Afghanistan

I’ve long suspected that, despite all of his hawkish bravado during the campaign about the necessity of winning in Afghanistan, Obama isn’t serious about achieving victory against al Qaeda and the Taliban at all.

The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has detailed his strategy and emphasized the urgency of the situation. McChrystal has called for 30-40,000 additional troops and clearly stated that we will most likely be defeated in Afghanistan without them. However, instead of immediately granting his field commander’s request, Obama is dithering and trial balloons concerning “alternate strategies” are being floated. With U.S. public support for the Afghan war waning, Obama’s got his finger in the political wind and the wind direction doesn’t bode well for American troops on the ground or United States security interests in the region.

Gates Doubts U.S.’s Afghan Strategy

President Barack Obama met with senior counselors for three hours Wednesday to launch his review of Afghan war strategy, amid indications that his defense secretary — the key link between the White House and the military — is among those undecided about the right approach.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Kabul, is advocating a manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on protecting the Afghan populace rather than hunting individual militants. He submitted a classified assessment over the weekend calling for up to 40,000 U.S. reinforcements.

Mr. Obama met with senior military officials, diplomats and Cabinet members Wednesday as part of the review, which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said was designed to “poke and prod” potential new approaches to the conflict.

The discussion focused on the political and security situation on the ground, according to an administration official, with military commanders detailing the gains made by the insurgency and top diplomats discussing the Afghan election results that were marred by fraud claims.

Mr. Obama focused his questioning on the current threat posed by al Qaeda and whether a resurgent Taliban would give al Qaeda leaders a new haven to regroup, the official said, which could indicate Mr. Obama is more concerned about the status of a threat to the U.S. than overall stability in Afghanistan.

In an interview Wednesday, a senior defense official said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, has emerged as one of Mr. Obama’s most trusted advisers, so his views carry significant weight in the deliberations.

“Even 40,000 more troops don’t give you enough boots on the ground to protect the Afghans if the north and west continue to deteriorate,” the official said. “That may argue for a different approach.”

A shift in Mr. Gates’s thinking would be particularly striking because he has long been a major advocate of counterinsurgency, which is credited with helping to sharply reduce Iraq’s once-unrelenting violence.

White House Eyeing Narrower War Effort

Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.

In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war, which President Obama has said is being fought to destroy al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and the ungoverned border areas of Pakistan.

McChrystal, commander of the 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama to quickly endorse his call for a change in military strategy and approve the additional resources he needs to retake the initiative from the resurgent Taliban.

But White House officials are resisting McChrystal’s call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, “A lot of assumptions — and I don’t want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions — were exposed to the light of day.”

Among them, according to three senior administration officials who attended the meeting, is McChrystal’s contention that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same strategic interests and that the return to power of the Taliban would automatically mean a new sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

See also:
Obama, war council review Afghanistan strategy
McChrystal Now Just One of Many Leaders as Obama Rethinks Afghan Strategy
Crucial talks begin on US Afghan strategy
Top UN envoy joins call for rethink of Afghan strategy
U.S. Afghan Strategy Hinges On Reliable Ally In Kabul
Senate blocks commander’s testimony before new Afghan strategy
Afghan Decision Expected in Matter of Weeks
Don’t rush Afghan decision, Kerry cautions president
Poll: 50% oppose U.S. surge in Afghanistan
Gunfight At The D.C. Corral
The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

/once we’re gone, how long will it be before the Taliban is back in control of Kabul, executing women in soccer stadiums?