"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gergen: Why didn't Obama listen to Petraeus?

First of all this is a good question but facts don't match the rhetoric in part of the article.  We will have more troops in Afghanistan when Obama's term is up then we had when it started.  Gergen has combined the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan which gave him the end result he desired.  We were already drawing down Iraq when Obama took office but he approved a surge in Afghanistan.  This is a lesson to anyone reading articles not to take everything at face value no matter who is reporting.

We find out from the article that Secretary of Defense Gates, and Secretary of State Clinton were on the side of the Petraeus plan to draw down while Vice President Biden and White House staff (Valerie Jarrett?) were on the opposition side.  So Obama chooses the side of Biden instead of the advisers who have been part of the Afghanistan War.  Doesn't say much for Obama.  We don't mean to nitpick by why didn't Gergen just say General Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Secretary of State Clinton instead of:
Set against the recommendations of his top military commander and his defense and diplomatic secretaries were those coming from Vice President Joe Biden and others to speed up the withdrawal 
In the move from a ground troops counterinsurgency strategy  to a counter terrorism strategy which relies heavily on drone attacks and special forces are we going to be seeing more reports of civilians killed without hurting the ability of the terrorists to strike?  We have had a lot of problems with the ground troops being able to operate in some areas but how is going to a counter terrorism  strategy going to work?  The draw down is going to leave our special forces vulnerable which could lead to more deaths.

Since Obama took office, the amount of casualties in Afghanistan has increased. 
The average monthly casualty rate for U.S. military forces serving in Afghanistan has increased 5-fold since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009.   
1,540 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, when U.S. forces began fighting in that country to oust the Taliban regime that had been harboring al Qaeda and to track down and capture or kill al Qaeda terrorists.
During the Bush presidency, which ended on Jan. 20, 2009 with the inauguration of President Obama, U.S. troops were present in Afghanistan for 87.4 months and suffered 570 casualties—a rate of 6.5 deaths per month. 
During the Obama presidency, through today, U.S. troops have been present in Afghanistan for 29.1 months and have suffered 970 casualties—a rate of 33.3 deaths per month.
Until I did the research, had no idea that the casualties under Obama were so high compared to the years of President Bush.  One question is WHY was this not mentioned in the article or in the mainstream media when they attacked President Bush relentlessly on casualties?  The rate of 6.5 deaths a month versus 33.3 deaths per month is huge, but we hear crickets from the mainstream media.
Why didn't Obama listen to Petraeus?
By David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst
June 23, 2011 9:25 a.m. EDT 
(CNN) -- There was something deeply unsettling about President Obama's speech on Afghanistan and much of the commentary that surrounded it -- or at least there was to me, as someone who clings to some old-fashioned traditions about U.S. foreign policy.
It should be said up front that the speech itself was well crafted. More importantly, President Obama deserves credit on two fronts. 
First, he has kept his promises as a candidate and then in the Oval Office that he would wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in ways that he considered responsible. When he came into office, the U.S. had approximately 190,000 troops deployed in the two war zones; the wind-downs that are under way will mean that by the end of this year, we will have less than 100,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promise kept. 
Second, the president deserves credit for having the guts to order up a surge in Afghanistan in 2009 -- against the wishes of many in his party -- and for overseeing many successes from the surge, including devastating blows against al Qaeda. Promise kept. 
But the issue before him in his East Room speech was where to go from here in Afghanistan. Everyone in his administration agrees that it is time to begin winding down the Afghanistan surge, as he promised in his West Point speech in 2009. The central question was how to do that. 
Going forward, Gen. David Petraeus -- who runs the military operations in Afghanistan -- was widely reported to favor a slow, moderate reduction in U.S. forces, ensuring that the U.S. would continue to keep strong troop strength not only in 2011 but through the fighting season in Afghanistan in 2012. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared that view, according to reports. (In a wonderful bit of commentary, Joe Klein of Time has posited that the fighting season in Afghanistan starts in the spring when the opium crop has been harvested and ends in November or so when the harvest season opens for marijuana.) 
Set against the recommendations of his top military commander and his defense and diplomatic secretaries were those coming from Vice President Joe Biden and others to speed up the withdrawal and shift quickly from a counterinsurgency strategy (which requires more troops) to a counterterrorism strategy (which requires fewer troops, depending more on pinpoint attacks by drones, special forces and the like). 
As someone who has seen a lot of military decisions made in the White House, I am accustomed to presidents paying great heed to the views of their commanders on the ground. 
In this case, Petraeus was not just the commander on the ground -- he is one of the very best American generals in modern history, a man who has turned around the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One might think that given his extraordinary success and the great respect in which he is held on Capitol Hill and around the country, Obama would give Petraeus the benefit of the doubt and go with his preferred option. 
But that is exactly what the president decided not to do. Instead of a 3,000-5,000 troop withdrawal this year, as Petraeus is understood to have recommended, Obama went for 10,000. And instead of protecting two full seasons of strong American troop presence in Afghanistan, Obama set forth a plan that almost certainly will compromise next season's fighting. 
As a top general at the Pentagon told me, there is great fear that once troops know they are definitely coming home next summer, they will be focused on getting out of there safely -- not on serious engagement with the Taliban.
Petraeus will loyally support the president in public, as he should. So will Gates and Clinton, even though both accepted the president's decision reluctantly, according to The New York Times. 
Excerpt:  Read More at CNN  
Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen

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