Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)
While it has gotten little coverage in the main stream media, President Obama seems to be at war with his top commander’s in Afghanistan. It started early in his first term when he fired General David McKiernan in May, 2009. The official reason for relieving McKiernan was a need for “fresh ideas.” McKiernan was, without question, old school, who believed that the enemy must be destroyed and wars must be won. He was not a big fan of counterinsurgency. Rather, he believed in combat operations to destroy the enemy. As a result, he was replaced by General Stanley McCrystal who believed in a kinder, gentler approach to combat. McCrystal was a big fan of counterinsurgency, of winning the population’s “hearts and minds,” and hoping they would turn away from the Taliban and support the corrupt Karzai regime. What McCrystal failed to realize, and what McKiernan understood perfectly, was that the average Afghan feared the Karzai government more than the Taliban.
Unfortunately, McCrystal fell victim to an unflattering article in Rolling Stones magazine and Obama promptly fired him in the summer of 2010. This led to Obama selecting General David Petraeus, the author of the current failed strategy of counterinsurgency and he looked like a perfect fit for Obama who desperately wanted to look like a real wartime president without actually conducting real war. In September, 2011, Pertaeus turned his command over to General John Allen, a four star Marine, and rode off to take over as the Director of the CIA. As we now know, Petraeus did not have to be fired by Obama, he managed to fire himself by banging a camp follower.
General Allen led the coalition forces in Afghanistan until February, 2013, faithfully carrying out the administration’s policy of conducting limited combat operations which put coalition forces at increased risks on the battlefield, resulting in more casualties without any appreciable gains. By now, any hope of success was long gone. That hope died with the firing of General David McKiernan back in 2009. As for Allen, he became caught up in the same web that snared Pertaeus and he has now announced his retirement. The racy emails he exchanged with an upwardly mobile socialite in Tampa proved to be his undoing, and he took the gracious way out by claiming family commitments.
Now the torch has been passed to General Joe Dunford, another Marine four star, selected by Obama. He is the fifth war-time commander for Obama in Afghanistan in less than four years. By comparison, President Bush only had two senior commanders in almost eight years, and he fired no one.
So how much progress have me made under Obama? Unfortunately, we have steadily lost ground in spite of his desperate efforts, including the surge and the constant rotation of commanders. During Obama’s four years, we have suffered over 65% of all casualties in over eleven years of combat. Even worse, we have given up on winning under Obama’s leadership.
The last time an American president relieved a war-time commander was done by President Harry Truman when he relieved General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. How did that turn out? As history has shown, not very well.
Through all of this turmoil and incompetence at the highest level, the troops in the field faithfully carried out the orders given, which is what the troops always do. They are the best in the world and they deserve better leadership. The tragedy is they are not going to get it and they will continue to die in this God forsaken country for no reason other than propping up an interlocking criminal enterprise which is what the Karzai regime has become.
So now the question has to be asked. Why are we still there? A very good question, indeed.
About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police. As of 2012, this force totals 157,000. From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war. It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.
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