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November 19, 2010

Winning Hearts And Minds While Kicking Ass

One of the critiques from a lot on the right of General Stanley McChrystal's time as commander in Afghanistan was he was too focused on the soft side of COIN and not enough on more kinetic actions like bombing and shooting.

Well, Mr. COIN himself David Petraeus doesn't mind blowing shit up and killing the bad guys by the bushel.

The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by the Marines in the country's southwest, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away.

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.


The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October - 1,000 total - than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges - a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past - to blast through minefields.


"We've taken the gloves off, and it has had huge impact," one of the senior officials said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently complained that the US was too aggressive and there is a need to dial things back. I'm guessing the company of Abrams is his answer.

When Petraeus took over from McChrystal some said it was a bad move because it showed a lack of faith in other flag officers. It made Petraeus the indispensable man. Well you know what? He kind of is.

Only Nixon could go to China and only General COIN himself could bring battle tanks to Afghanistan.

Right now there are two living American soldiers who are generally credited with winning a war....Norman Schwarzkopf and David Petraeus. Nothing gives a general credibility like victory. No matter what Petraeus does it's impossible to say "that's not how COIN works!" because Petraeus is the modern inventor of it in the US Army. If it's not in the book, he can simply pencil it in since he wrote the thing originally.

Wars are won by tough men doing impossible things with and for the guy next to them on the line but they need the right leadership and strategy from the guy making the calls. It's possible, just possible, that Petraeus can pull off something resembling a victory there. If so, David Petraeus will enter some very select company in the annals of American history.

Oh remember the upcoming strategy review and July 2011 deadline/withdrawal/transition date? That's apparently no longer operative.

Just be patient, Joe Biden says. America's longest war will totally be over ... in four years.

The vice president declared 2014 as the "drop-dead date" for the Afghanistan pullout on Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," echoing similar sentiments from the night before on CNN.

While it was never clear exactly when the U.S. would completely withdraw, President Obama had no sooner set July 2011 as the target withdrawal date than some of his key advisers publicly questioned how firm a deadline that really was.

..."What we said back last Thanksgiving and repeated again and got the living Devil beat out of us by good friends like John McCain and others, we said, ‘Look, beginning in the summer of 2011, we're going to begin to transition," Biden said on MSNBC.

"That commitment will be kept," he added. "We said then the slope and the pace of which we get out depended upon the circumstances, but we will begin to transition. And 2014 is now a date that everyone has agreed upon — NATO as well as the Afghanis — that's kind of the drop-dead date."

Looks like the dreaded neo-cons got to Obama!

The 2011 talk was always political and now the 2014 date will set liberal heads exploding.

Notice how it was left to Joe Biden to drop this little nugget while Obama is in Portugal?

But credit where it's due...I really thought Obama was going to cut and run come Hell or high water next year. He does seem committed to the fight if not in word, certainly in deed.

I remain skeptical about what can be accomplished in A-Stan long term, given it's location, lack of infrastructure, culture and a whole host of other problems that really aren't solvable by military force. That's especially true while Pakistan is still Pakistan. But if you're going to send men and women over there to God, let them fight.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:06 PM

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