Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: McMaster’s War

Sounds like a Frontline, doesn't it?

"Trump vexed over a troop surge in Afghanistan" by Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt New York Times   June 03, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump is caught between military commanders, who tell him that the road to victory in Afghanistan is to pour in more US troops, and skeptical advisers, who argue that a major deployment is a futile exercise that will leave him politically vulnerable.

Trump’s dilemma in 2017 is much the same as that faced by Barack Obama in 2009.

(Blog editor frowns. So here we are, 8 years after that failure, treading water and in the same position -- with all the lives and treasure wasted and lost -- well, almost. Some did get rich off the wars and have geopolitical objectives obtained. Yay)

As Trump faces his most consequential decision yet as commander-in-chief — whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, where a truck bombing on Wednesday offered a brutal reminder that the 16-year-old war is far from over — his administration is divided along familiar fault lines.

That lit a fire under the urgent need to send more troops as fast as possible, and was meant break Trump's indecision? Strange timing.

Oh, yeah, it's been 16 years and the war is far from over? Time to declare victory and leave. We know that won't happen because not only is Afghanistan the lead supplier of opium that ultimately bolsters the bottom lines of banks, but it is right on the doorstep of Russia and part of the ring around it.

The war isn't about winning or losing, it is just about being there. That's why it is U.S. and allied nation's intel services that help create, fund, and direct the terrorists.

The dispute pits two generals who had formative experiences in Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster — against political aides, led by the chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who fear that sending in more troops would be a slippery slope toward nation-building. 

Key the music.

What a choice. The generals (ugh) against Islamaphobe and Clash of Civilizations Bannon. Bannon also didn't want to bomb Syria, and was overruled by the Kushners. No mention of them here, and my sense is Trump has turned back to the political guru because of his reportedly-sagging poll numbers. On this issue, Bannon is right but for the wrong reasons.

“They are going to be faced with the same questions we were,” said David Axelrod, a former senior Obama adviser.

During the 2009 debate, Axelrod worried that the generals were boxing his boss in: “How and when does this end? Or is it an open-ended commitment of American lives and resources? What will the investment produce in the long run?”

The debate over the US role follows a sharp increase in militant violence in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, three explosions rocked the funeral service of a victim of anti-government protests in Kabul, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens after a tense and bloody week in the Afghan capital.

Who would bomb a funeral service for an antigovernment protester?

The blasts followed a truck explosion Wednesday that killed nearly 100 people and wounded almost 500 near the presidential palace and foreign embassies.

Local news media reported that at least 12 people had been killed Saturday, and the Emergency Hospital, one of Kabul’s main trauma centers, put the number of dead at 19.

Among the dead was a former deputy attorney general, Halim Samadi, and a well-known northern preacher, Mawlawi Jalal. The speaker of the Afghan Senate, Fazl Hadi Muslimyar, and several senior lawmakers were among the wounded.

No group claimed responsibility for the latest bombings.

Meaning the Taliban didn't do it and the pre$$ office in Langley hadn't coordinated a response yet (must have been on the phone to the Philippines).

The White House shelved its deliberations over Afghanistan three weeks ago, after an initial Pentagon proposal to deploy up to 5,000 additional US troops ran into fierce resistance from Bannon, an ardent nationalist, and other political advisers.

And then the truck bomb hits, huh? Stink!

In the West Wing, some aides have taken to calling Afghanistan “McMaster’s war.” 

I'll give you one guess who coined the term.

Undeterred, McMaster plans to bring the debate back to the front burner this coming week, a senior administration official said. But as he does so, the Pentagon appears to be moving toward a smaller recommendation, in which US allies would supply half the new troops. Historically, the United States has supplied about two-thirds of the soldiers in Afghanistan.

Helped along by a truck bomb.

That proposal depends on nailing down commitments from NATO and other allies — a task that former officials said had gotten harder after Trump’s stormy visit to Europe, where he chided allies for not paying their fair share of the alliance’s upkeep and declined to reaffirm America’s commitment to mutual defense. 

Not to mention their populaces increasing revulsion at established parties and their incessant war-mongering. May of England is getting a big dose of that right now, and antiwar sentiments are far stringer in Europe than AmeriKa.

“Trump has made it harder, not easier, to follow the US lead,” said Douglas E. Lute, a former ambassador to NATO who advised both Obama and President George W. Bush on Afghanistan. “Questioning US leadership makes it more difficult for the allies to send troops into harm’s way.”

While the parallels between the Trump and Obama administrations are striking, there are important differences.

Trump has shown his generals more deference than did Obama. In 2009, Hillary Clinton, Obama’s secretary of state, had a significant voice in the debate.

Then she should receive her portion of blame.

Now, current and former generals all but monopolize the debate. The White House has also delegated military decisions like the recent order by the top American commander in Afghanistan, General John W. Nicholson Jr., to drop the most powerful conventional weapon in the US arsenal on Islamic State fighters in a tunnel complex there.

The troop numbers under consideration are far more modest. In 2009, General Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top commander in Afghanistan, recommended 40,000 to Obama.

McMaster and other advisers warn that without reinforcements for the Afghan Army, the security situation in Afghanistan will get even more precarious than it is now, potentially creating more sanctuaries for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Then we have no choice. Start mailing the report orders.

Currently, the international security force assisting the Afghan army has about 13,000 troops, of which about 8,400 are US soldiers. Under an initial plan, which Nicholson recommended to Congress in February, the United States would send 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces.

Such a deployment would allow American advisers to train and assist more Afghan forces, and it would place US troops closer to the front lines at lower levels in the chain of command.

Yup, just advisers. Can still end up dead, but.....


I suspect Trump will do what Obama did after Panetta told him you have to listen to the generals.