Tuesday, September 22, 2009

President Obama, Cautious of Accepting General McChrystal’s Recommendations on Afghanistan

In the previous post on Afghanistan, I mentioned that General Stanley McChrystal of the US Army would submit the second assessment to suggest the number of additional troops to be sent there. I would like to explore its impact on policymaking process of the Obama administration in a forthcoming post. Now, let me talk about the assessment and current stance to the report by the Obama administration.

In an urgent and confidential report, General McChrystal warns that more forces are required to fight this war. Otherwise, he says, that the mission will fail. However, the General concludes "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."

In addition to further surge, General McChrystal suggests to improve governance in Afghanistan. As the state institution is weak, officials abuse power, which lead to widespread corruption. Also, McChrystal proposes to build up the capability of the Afghan government to manage detention facilities. Currently, insurgents are overcrowded in those camps, and it is vital to interrogate them more effectively to obtain information about terrorists. Moreover, McChrystal suggests that ISAF build good relations with local residents, and help Afghan security forces grow up to 400,000, including both the army and the police.

Finally, the report points out that terrorist headquarters are located in Pakistan, and leaders support fighters in Afghan battlefield from there. Without sufficient surge, McChrystal concludes that ultimate costs of this war will be significantly higher (“McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure'”; Washington Post; September 21, 2009).

The problem is, American public support for the Afghan War is dropping sharply as shown in the table below. Mark Mardell, North America Editor of BBC, says “Obama will find it tough to sell the general's policy to a party and public reluctant to see more men and women sent to bolster an Afghan government accused of election fraud.” In view of such an atmosphere, General McChrystal used a strong word, failure, to push for a big surge. Paul Reynolds, World Affairs Correspondent of BBC, says that McChrysytal dared to use the F-word, because wants to achieve success in the end (“US in Afghanistan failure warning”; BBC News; 21 September 2009).

Prior to this assessment, General Sir David Richards of the new head of the British Army in Afghanistan stressed that defeat for NATO would have an "intoxicating impact" on extremists around the world (“General: If we fail, the world’s terrorists will be intoxicated”; Evening Standard; 18 September 2009).

Source: BBC

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is cautious to accept the assessment, and he is going to reassess the Afghan strategy ahead of formal request for surge by General Stanley McChrystal. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell insists that the President follow the advice by General McChrystal as his predecessor did in Iraq. He argues that President Obama be more respectful to General David Petraeus and General Stanley McChrystal in this war (“Obama Questions Plan to Add Forces in Afghanistan”; Wall Street Journal; September 21, 2009).

This post is just a narration of the strategic assessment of the Afghan War. Static analysis of the assessment will appear in a forthcoming post on Afghanistan. This war is a real test for President Obama.