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October 01, 2009

Strategic Drift...Secretary of Defense Gates Not Sure Counter Insurgency Is Right Strategy

I expected this kind of indecision from Obama but not from Gates.

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.

Here's the thing, when Gates, with the support of Adm. Mullen and Gen. Petraeus replaced then Afghanistan commander Gen. McKiernan he emphasized Gen. McChrystal was uniquely qualified to lead a counterinsurgency fight.

Gates repeatedly said that McKiernan had done nothing wrong but that given the new strategy adopted by a new President he wanted 'fresh eyes' on the ground. Well, McChrystal and his eyes have looked around and he says he needs more troops to do the job he was sent to do. Now Gates and Obama are saying, well maybe we need a new-new strategy.

Liberals will say this is a sign of Obama's vaunted intellect, that he is always assessing and reassessing given new facts. Bull. At some point you need to pick a strategy and go with it. Yes, consider feedback and adapt but within the frame work of your strategy. And yes, you need to reevaluate your strategy at some point, but 3 months in and before your new commander even has the resources to implement it, is not the fish or cut bait point.

Obama and his team are floating the idea that the Afghan elections were a key decision point and the amount of fraud and corruption were shocking. Allow me to use a very technical term to describe my reaction to that...duh. Anyone who had their sensibilities shocked by the level of cheating in the recent election hasn't been paying any attention.

These Washington battles are being fought behind closed doors and on many levels so a lot of this is tea leaf reading but what we are seeing is deeply worrying. Obama needs to pick a strategy to fight and win or be honest that he's looking for a way out. It's immoral to keep American servicemen and women in harm's way if you are clueless about what to do or too gutless to do what you really want.

I hope that behind closed doors Gates has the fortitude to stand up for the General he put in this position or resign on principle if the President isn't willing to support him and the General.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:50 AM

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