President Obama will announce his big decision about Afghanistan on Tuesday. The sanctioned leaks about what he’ll say are coming fast and furious.
According to various reports, he’ll commit somewhere between 30,000 and 34,000 extra U.S. troops to the region. When he announces that, NATO nations will maybe send 6,000 extra troops. That adds up to the 40,000 in extra forces Gen. Stanley McChrystal wanted, and then we’ll train Afghan security forces up to an end-strength of about 400,000, and we’ll have as many counterinsurgency troops in place as our bogus counterinsurgency field manual calls for (between two and 2.5 percent of the host nation population, which in Afghanistan is a little over 28 million, so the total number of counterinsurgents will be in the ballpark of 600,000).
The bad news: this means Obama is signing on to a nation-birthing strategy, one that is in part about maintaining a reason to exist for NATO and the U.S. Army, which would otherwise have trouble justifying their bloated budgets.
The politics of this goat rope are becoming as ridiculous as they are transparent. Obama’s "deliberative process," which has taken months, will end up giving McChrystal more or less just what he asked for. Obama asked our NATO Shemps to kick in 10,000 extra troops, knowing they’d give him about half that number.
Candidate Obama put himself between a rock and a brick wall when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" and promised he would get "the job done" there. He said that gibberish to get critics off his back for his having voted against the Iraq surge, something he shouldn’t have apologized for. The Iraq surge was a shipwreck. Iraq’s government and security forces are incompetent and corrupt, political reconciliation is nowhere in sight, and we may never see their next set of elections. (I’m thinking we’ll never get completely out of Iraq. The whole point of invading the joint was establishing a permanent base of operations in the heart of the oil-rich Gulf region.)
Obama supposedly insisted that his security team come up with an exit strategy. White House spokesmodel Robert Gibbs says, “We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We are not going to be there another eight or nine years.” That’s not an exit plan. It’s blabber from a White House spokes-character.
“The American people are going to want to know why we are here, they are going to want to know what our interests are,” Gibbs says.
What exactly are our interests in Afghanistan? None of the 9/11 attackers came from there. Al-Qaeda has all but disappeared; some reports say it’s down to a core membership of eight or 10, and few if any of them are in Afghanistan.
U.S. and NATO forces already in place in Afghanistan outnumber the Taliban by a ratio of 12 to one, and it’s questionable why we give a rat’s rump about the Taliban. They’re a more potent political force in Afghanistan than Hamid Karzai’s government, and a more honest one, and they control 80 percent of the country. Our political leaders are calling Karzai the "legitimate" leader of Afghanistan even though he just stole two elections and everybody on the planet knows it.
Top Democratic leaders aren’t peace, love, and understanding about the vector Obama seems to be taking on Afghanistan. Chairman of the House Appropriations committee David Obey (D-Wisc.) doesn’t like the idea of escalating and says if Obama wants to do that we need to increase taxes. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee Carl Levin (D-Mich.) would also like to increase taxes, but only on high-income earners. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there’s not a shipload of support in the Democratic caucus for escalation in Afghanistan.
Candidate Obama stuck his wits in a wringer when he called the Afghanistan conflict a "war of necessity" and vowed to "get the job done" there. Now, it appears, he can’t back down from those statements without being reviled from the right as a "weak on security" Democrat, and a black one at that. He’s already suffered a media blitz from McChrystal that rivals anything Harry Truman had to put up with from Douglas MacArthur, and the hawks in Congress have been screeching at him non-stop for not giving McChrystal what he wanted the second he asked for it.
I’d like to see him go on TV Tuesday night and say, "My fellow Americans, I was wrong. Our war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with national security anymore and we can’t afford it, and I’m not sending one more kid into harm’s way to fight there. As of tonight, I’m ordering a complete withdrawal." But the odds of that happening are slimmer than a licorice rope. Obama couldn’t take the heat.
Former four-star Barry McCaffrey, the military-industrial ghoul who was the worst of the retired military media analysts who helped sell the Iraq war to the American public, is, incredibly, back on the air with NBC. He’s pushing the "no exit strategy, no timeline in Afghanistan" line. McCaffrey has ties to DynCorp International, a company that has a five-year contract to support bases in Afghanistan.
A swell fellow, that McCaffrey is, but he’s really just a symptom of a larger American disease. Our wars, even though they’re destroying our economy, are making a lot of people rich. The cash caisson, the gravy ship, and the wild blue budget continue to grow. War is our only export, and counterinsurgency is the perfect tool of the Long War mafia, because counterinsurgency wars are unwinnable.