Friday, January 1, 2010

I think we knew this already... but still

Yesterday the NYT published an article previewing an upcoming U.S. Army report on missteps in Afghanistan which confirms what we knew already:
Rummy: Worst SecDef EVER!
Here are a few gems from the article (and the report):
In the fall of 2003, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, decided on a new strategy. Known as counterinsurgency, the approach required coalition forces to work closely with Afghan leaders to stabilize entire regions, rather than simply attacking insurgent cells.

But there was a major drawback, a new unpublished Army history of the war concludes. Because the Pentagon insisted on maintaining a “small footprint” in Afghanistan and because Iraq was drawing away resources, General Barno commanded fewer than 20,000 troops.


That early and undermanned effort to use counterinsurgency is one of several examples of how American forces, hamstrung by inadequate resources, missed opportunities to stabilize Afghanistan during the early years of the war, according to the history, “A Different Kind of War.”


But as early as late 2003, the Army historians assert, “it should have become increasingly clear to officials at Centcom and D.O.D. that the coalition presence in Afghanistan did not provide enough resources” for proper counterinsurgency, the historians write, referring to the United States Central Command and the Department of Defense.


But, once the Taliban fell, the Pentagon often seemed ill-prepared and slow-footed in shifting from a purely military mission to a largely peacekeeping and nation-building one, fresh details in the history indicate.

“Even after the capture of Kabul and Kandahar,” the historians write, “there was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social and economic stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the message from senior D.O.D officials in Washington was for the U.S. military to avoid such efforts.”


The lack of resources was also apparent in the training of Afghan security forces, the history shows.

Early in the war, the training program was hampered by poor equipment, low pay, high attrition and not enough trainers. Living conditions for the Afghan army were so poor that Maj. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry likened them to Valley Forge when he took command of the training operation in October 2002.

“The mandate was clear and it was a central task, but it is also fair to say that up until that time there had been few resources committed,” Mr. Eikenberry, now the ambassador to Afghanistan, told the historians, referring to the army training program.

The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon.

First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.


Third, the invasion of Iraq was siphoning away resources. After the invasion started in March 2003, the history says, the United States clearly “had a very limited ability to increase its forces” in Afghanistan.

[Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan, NYT, 31 Dec 2009; emphasis added]
Note: Rummy's ideologically-driven "small footprint" ensured failure!
Also noteworthy: the report highlights a characteristic failure of W's administration: an inability to plan for foreseeable - even inevitable - contingencies.

Just for fun, recall W's braggadocio:
Thanks to the United States and our fine allies. Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror. The Taliban is history. And the Afghan people are free!
[President Bush Addresses Troops at Miramar MCAS, California, August 14, 2003]
On the bright side, the report highlights the resourcefulness of commanders on the ground:
In one telling anecdote from 2004, the history describes how soldiers under General Barno had so little experience in counterinsurgency that one lieutenant colonel bought books about the strategy over the Internet and distributed them to his company commanders and platoon leaders.
Note: the report is not some goddam librul journalist's take on the Afghan mission, but, "represents the first installment of the Army’s official history of the conflict."

The Times has a provided a link to the full draft report on its website:
'A Different Kind of War'

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