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Aug 8

Written by: Diana West
Monday, August 08, 2011 6:57 AM 

The Afghanistan blame game begins with Time magazine putting it out there, albeit gently:

The influx of troops, requested by General Stanley McChrystal, approved by President Barack Obama and overseen by General David Petraeus, brought stability to some areas in the south. And that is part of the narrative Petraeus, who has given up command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to become head of the CIA, wants as his legacy. But the surge — and other initiatives of the general — have not been the unalloyed successes they have been made out to be. Indeed, the downing of a U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak province on Saturday, resulting in the single deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan, shows how fragile the situation is.

Not to mention reversible.

Hmm. Now why might that be the case? Could it be that counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN), as written, promoted, entrenched and executed by Gen. David Petraeus, is the problem? That blindness to Islam, while politically correct and satisfactory to all manner of Muslim Brotherhood operatives -- I mean, Muslin Outreach consultants -- has resulted in a senseless, illogical, alternate-reality-based and thus unworkable policy?  

The notion simply never crosses the reporter's or any of his sources' minds. 

It's always something else, someone else, at fault.

First non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: "The U.S. civilian side." was never "brought to the table."

In part, the surge has failed because the U.S. civilian side, under U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, was never brought to the table. "Petraeus came at a time when the policy here was in crisis, in large part because the players were unclear on the boundaries of the chain of command, and he did nothing to change that element of the relationship with the White House," says another foreign analyst working in Afghanistan.

Second non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: Petraeus' "inner circle" disregarded the US civilian side.

Because Petraeus' "inner circle pretty much disregarded the civilian side," says Mike Capstick, a retired colonel in the Canadian army and analyst with experience in Afghanistan, the interlocking mantra of counterinsurgency — "clear, hold, build" — could not be carried through to completion.

"Mantra" is right.

Third non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: The "civilian surge" never showed up.

"The surge cleared quite a few districts. They did 'clear and hold,' but they were not able to do the transfer, 'build' part," says the first analyst. "So, you'd give Petraeus good marks on managing the surge and, from a military point of view, 'clear, hold.' But 'transfer, build' has not been really successful. It is really a civilian-surge point and the civilian surge never really showed up."...

Fourth non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: Those pathetic Afghan army and police forces (you know, the ones that shoot Americans and other Westerners -- a fact which doesn't come up in the article, naturally).

Other issues have dogged Petraeus as well, chief among them the creation of viable Afghan army and police forces that would theoretically allow the Afghan government to take over security from foreign forces.

Here is a moment to question COIN theory, predicated in part on the obvious fallacy that an Islamic army and police would rise up to serve non-Islamic cultural, religious and legal ends in the midst of a jihad -- instead of shooting their infidel-mentors now and again. But no. Time blahs on:

Though numbers have increased, attrition rates remain extremely high and a lack of qualified noncommissioned officers means leadership remains absent. "Over the past one or two years, there has been a major effort to expand the army and police. But while there has been an increase in numbers, quality will take some time," says Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Afghan Interior Minister and now a professor the National Defense University in the U.S.

Really? Is he teaching COIN police training techniques?

Fifth non-COIN problem: Not enough NATO trainers -- and Petraeus is finally to blame for something:

[Douglas] Macgregor has more criticism. "Petraeus and his staff frequently complained about the shortage of NATO trainers by at least 900 men," he says. "This continued after the arrival of an additional 40,000 troops. However, the truth is this: Petraeus is responsible for the shortfall. He could have committed an additional 10,000 troops to the NATO training mission had he wanted to do so. ...

Why do I have this funny feeling that it isn't the number of trainers, it's a problem, or a variety of problems, with the trainees?

Sixth non-COIN problem, non-Petraeus problem: Night raids and air strikes.

Another issue has been continued night raids and air strikes — tactics that have enraged both Afghan civilians and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and that have left hundreds dead. "Despite his acumen of American politics, Petraeus has been, by and large, completely tone-deaf in how he's dealt with the Afghans, and that has created distance," Joshua Foust, a prolific blogger on and fellow at the American Security Project, tells TIME.

This is actually a bum rap on Petraeus -- or, more important, NATO forces, but the general himself helps perpetuate the impression that pro-government forces are the villains when it comes to "civilian casualties." According to the latest UN figures, only 16 percent of civilian casualties in 2010 were linked to pro-government forces; with 75 percent being linked to Taliban and related forces....

Seventh non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: Elimination of "older, more moderate Taliban" leaders (wow; that's a reach).

A number of analysts over the past months have warned that the elimination of "mid-level Taliban commanders" — part of ISAF's strategy — could have second- and third-order effects. Besides speculation that older, more moderate leaders would be replaced by younger, hard-line elements, Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network says, the surge has "closed off the opportunity for dialogue with the Taliban. In 2008-2009 there was a clear tendency within the Taliban, a readiness to explore talks. And that's just been destroyed by the surge."

Eight non-COIN, non-Petraeus problem: Afghanistan is not Iraq.

Interestingly, some believe that the perception of Petraeus having had many successes during the war in Iraq — such as the surge there and the Sunni Awakening movement — has played a part in his continued problems in Afghanistan. "It may have taken Petraeus time to understand that Afghanistan is not Iraq and that it is, in fact, a hell of a lot more complicated," Capstick tells TIME. "For the first few months after he arrived, almost every member of his new team in ISAF headquarters would drop the phrase, 'in Iraq we ... ' into conversations — a recipe for disaster in Afghanistan."

What's so great about Iraq? Absolutely nothing. But to notice would be to notice the bankruptcy of COIN and the failures of the COIN-bots.

Time concludes:

In the end, although Petraeus' time was more positive than Ambassador Eikenberry's, the general may have been more successful at advancing his career than at bringing the war to a successful conclusion.

My, my.

But there's a "but."

Now, with President Obama talking about a shift from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism in Afghanistan and with Petraeus heading the CIA, the general may again be calling the shots there. But this could have benefits. "Petraeus' experience in Afghanistan may finally get the CIA out of their dependency on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]," says Capstick. "The CIA-ISI relationship has been a disaster since the Soviet occupation and has been a major obstacle to the rise of secular, modernist Afghan leaders to positions of power."

Hope springs eternal for this guy. But what achievement, what positive or successful outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan accounts for that?

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