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June 23, 2010

Obama Doubles Down On Afghanistan

Well, that was interesting.

I know a lot of folks here didn't think McChrystal should have lost his command and career over the Rolling Stone article and none of us like Obama. But McChrystal did throw his job away and in the end, Obama did the best thing to give us a chance for a good outcome in Afghanistan.

The Weekly Standard pulled up Gen. Petraeus' testimony from last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here's part of what he said about the July '11 deadline.

"It's important that July 2011 be seen for what it is, the date when a process begins based on conditions, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits," said Petraeus. "Moreover, my agreement with the president's decisions was based on projections of conditions in July 2011.

Note 'conditions', not dates.

Picking Petraeus for this command is a double edged sword for Obama. On one hand he's given himself the chance to say in the future, "I gave you the best guy and look, it's not working. Not even King David could win in Afghanistan. We're outta here".

On the other hand he's saying right now, with a lot of credibility, "I need to win this and I'm giving us the best shot with the one guy the majority of the nation will rally around".

Petraeus may well be a selfless patriot but he's not stupid enough to go into a setup.

Now, all good soldiers think they can do the mission and as CentCom commander he undoubtedly has a feeling of responsibility to the men and women in the fight, but Petraeus is more than a good soldier, he's a good inside the system fighter as well. He's not going to take on a hopeless cause. He has to honestly believe this war can be won and that Obama and the people he will have to work with can do it.

In some ways by picking the highest profile general in America, Obama is making Petraeus a partner in the war. Petraeus has laid it on the table that he will be back next year to report on whether or not the conditions are right to start withdrawing next year. Given who he is, what he's accomplish, Americans are going to believe him. If he says to Congress "No, conditions don't allow us to pull out", then Obama has to live with that.

Obama could have played through McChrystal saying that and pulled out anyway. He can't do that with Petraeus. Not after how he gets to that point.

I really thought Obama would suck up the story because keeping McChrystal was the easiest path to exiting in '11. Firing McChrystal means giving people a chance to say, 'give the new guy some more time'. But with Petraeus that pressure will be overwhelming. If he asks for it.

There won't be a change in strategy since McChrystal was running the local version of the Petraeus playbook and Petraeus was his boss but there may well be some changes in style and tactics. It will be interesting to see what becomes of McChyrstal's much criticized Rules of Engagement.

I don't know if those ROEs were coming from the White House but McChrystal accepted and defended them if they did. What will Petraeus do?

No matter what...good luck to the General, the men and women he now directly commands and yes, the President of the United States.

Added: CDR Salamander doesn't like the idea of Petraeus moving to direct command.

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posted by DrewM. at 03:37 PM

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