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Not much time for good decisions on Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan --The speedy surge into Afghanistan isn't going to be quite as rapid as the White House recently suggested -- further complicating President Obama's hopes for a quick in-and-out fix.

As one of the selling points of the plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, rather than the full 40,000 troops Gen. Stanley McCrystal requested, the president's aides touted the idea that the extra forces would be sent in the next six months, rather than over the full year that McChrystal originally thought necessary.

But a top military planner says the actual timetable will be closer to what McChrystal proposed.

I asked Lt Gen. David Rodriquez, the No. 2 US commander here, in a briefing tonight how long the deployment of the extra 30,000 would take. He answered that "it will happen between nine and eleven months," starting in January 2010. Which means that some troops might not arrive until November 2010.

The next month after that, December 2010, is when Obama plans to assess how well the troops are doing -- so he can decide how many to pull out when the withdrawal begins in July 2011. That doesn't give him much time to make good decisions.

Am I the only person who worries that "fuzzy math" is being used here?

Obama was so eager to make his policy look different from what McChrystal proposed that he moved forward the up ramp, and the down ramp -- compressing what McChrystal advised should be a longer, slower process of escalation.

The problem is the laws of physics. As Rodriguez said in tonight's briefing, you can move people only so fast into to a landlocked battlefield half a world away from the U.S. McChrystal's original finishing point for adding 40,000 troop was March 2011. Now it has been "rushed" to November 2010 for 30,000 troops.

Bottom line from Kabul: The White House's accelerated timetable offers scant time for Obama to make good decisions about what's working for a U.S. military force that, in some cases, will only have been on the ground a few months.

By David Ignatius  | December 14, 2009; 2:59 PM ET
Categories:  Ignatius  | Tags:  David Ignatius  
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Of course obama was off... he has zero experience. None, zippo, zilch, nada... not like the other guy... who was he McCain...

Didn't he sit on the USS enterprise awaiting strike orders during the cuban missile crisis? Was that him, squad leader for the start of WWIII? Which liberal president was in direct communication with him? JFK was it?

It would have been such a relief to have a pilot/engineer straight talker... too bad we have a lawyer/scumbag

Posted by: docwhocuts | December 14, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Come on...we all know that July 2011 isn't going to happen....just like Guantanamo Bay wasn't closed on Obama's first day in office(How hard is it to fly a few hundred prisoners a few hundred miles?). The withdrawal date is just something to appease the far left, nothing more.

Posted by: wolfcastle | December 14, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

David, you miss the point.

The real question is; Are we going to stay there forever? As chimpie would have it.

Or; Are we going to leave? As President Obama just said.

According to President Obama, we are leaving.

You need to give President Obama credit for not just kicking this can down the road the way chimpie did, or the way Johnson did with Vietnam.

Posted by: Heerman532 | December 14, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Despite all of the deliberation that went into this decision, President Obama got rolled by the military, who got exactly what they wanted -- a large infusion of fresh troops into their endless war, with no strings attached. Contrary to the previous poster, this is EXACTLY the way Lyndon Johnson got us mired down in Vietnam.

As a lifelong liberal, I will never cast another vote for George W. Obama. His fundamental weakness and lack of core principles have doomed his presidency. If I wanted a third Bush term, I would have voted for McCain. Instead, President Obama has perpetuated and institutionalized the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties and fundamental rights. Like the most basic right of all -- a fair trial before a jury of your peers. Or accountability for the legality of your actions, even if you happen to be an employee of the federal government.

George Orwell got things exactly right, including our state of permanent warfare with an ever-shifting set of enemies, an intrusive police surveillance state, and the twisting of language by government officials to serve purposes which are truly evil ("the United States does not torture"). Mr. Orwell's only mistake was in dating his book 30 years too soon...

Posted by: jerkhoff | December 14, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Do your job as a journalist. Do some simple research and reporting like you should be doing.
Gen. Rodriguez was put in Afghanistan by Secty. Robert Gates. Rodriguez was Gates' chief of staff. He was put there after the abrupt and unjustified removal of General McKiernan by Gates. Who leaked McChrystal's report to the media? Who was Obama angry at at the meetings? Who set up these Islamic militant networks in the 1980's? Does Gates name come up often?

Do a little investigation, not just parroting what the Pakistani ISI or General this or that want you to write. Go back and read your columns about Pakistan's big plan to attack at the "taliban". You failed to mention that neither the Quetta Shura or Haqqani would be attacked.
Thanks for your excellent reporting and opinion writing [sarcasm added].

Posted by: clearthinking1 | December 14, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

In early 2012 the President will bring 20,000 of these American troops home with assurances that by 2014 it will be possible to bring home almost all of the American troops from Afghanistan.

One requires no inside sources, or access to confidential information. All that is required is awareness that all actions of the President and his administration are part of the campaign for reelection in 2012.

In many cases the actions of the President and government can be determined in advance by simply looking at the calendar of the President to see which reelection campaign event is scheduled next.

Posted by: bsallamack | December 14, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I believe that the escalation in Afghanistan is going result in at best of stalemate and at worst a debacle. It seems all ready the plan is falling apart. Not less that 48 hours after the big speech Clinton and Gates were both undercutting the decision in regards to withdrawal. Now the plan for troop commitment is falling apart. Looks like we are all in for another long eight years.

Posted by: dfdougherty | December 14, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

General MacArthur had one thing right: avoid land wars in Asia. Consider: Afghanistan is both vast, and a battle at the end of the world (i.e. logistics problem), at the historic graveyard of empires. We fight for reasons that make sense only in some internal political context to us. Deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to plot attacks, as if there were not multiple places all around the world where that could be done. Kill bin-Laden, as if he were not most likely dead on account of kidney dialysis being pretty hard to do in a cave, or alternatively if he is still alive and we did find and kill him, he would become a martyr more powerful dead than alive. And, dead or alive, almost every expert says he is not in Afghanistan at all.

The larger mission beyond simple revenge is impossible, shifting, or unknown, with everything we are doing making the situation worse, all entirely counterproductive to our own best security interests. The more Pashtun we kill, the more villages we blast and wedding parties we bomb, the more they are radicalized, and thirst for revenge. And of course, the Pashtun do not regard the Durand Line.

Just how many Americans know or care to know what the Durand Line may mean? And what it does NOT mean to the Pashtun? And what it DOES mean to the larger issue of the destabilization of Pakistan, where most Pashtun live? Or for that matter, who the hell the Pashtun may be at all?

My point being, the Pashtun have a strategic sanctuary in western and southern Pakistan where they are largely if not entirely untouchable (i.e. Vietnam redux) and where we have almost no intelligence at all. The one clear result of the war is the progressive destabilization of Pakistan, which is hugely counterproductive to our best security interests. It is for this reason that the Punjabi Pak army and the Pakistani government will never fully back our war in Afghanistan, because it is their ultimate ruin, as well as ours.

Nominally, we fight in support of a puppet government (i.e. entirely dependent upon our financial, military, and logistics support) that is both totally corrupt and totally inept, and which the common people despise. We seek to build an Afghan army and police structure that they can in no way finance or maintain on their own, so that too is a road to nowhere. Karzai himself just said so, in case you missed it.

Our own army is exhausted with repeated employments, and the PTSD damage to them will be immense. This it will end in defeat and withdrawal amid immense internal political turmoil, to no good end whatsoever.

And all this is ongoing at the same time the Iraq misadventure is going south, and the AIPAC lobbies who predominantly control our foreign policy thump every day to start a third war against Iran, for reasons of nuclear WMD which they do NOT have and may never develop, unless of course they are attacked.

But the die is cast, as said Julius Caesar. No turning back now, over the brink we go.

Posted by: tarquinis1 | December 14, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

David, I think time is on our side. Take for bad example the hostile takeover of Iraq. Congress was told that Iraq would be a cakewalk, costing us troop loss of 1000 tops, no more than one-year to complete at a cost of around 5 billion dollars. That is the kind of crystal ball logic we need to ignore I think.

If, high oil prices were a boom to Big Oil and speculators allowing excessive speculation to invoke conservation through profit while allowing liquid capitalization to increase hoping for investment in Iraq, the entire thing bombed. They gloriously road their delusions to burying their heads in the sands of Middle East.

Bush43 criticized Americans for seeking instant gratification while he himself expected instant gratification in Iraq. He in fact gave up himself, grateful to pass his liabilities onto the next guy.

It is true, Americans are beyond patience with War but I think our patience with radicals is much, much less. Lessons from limited incursions from our past not learned by Bush/Cheney are that limited incursions cost money and that enemies are very tenacious.

Was Iraq based on Mark to Market accounting, who knows. Right according to history, more will be revealed just like the 22 million emails recently recovered once advertised as lost by Bushies.

Posted by: truthhurts | December 14, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Our intrepid Gunga Din, David Ignatius, writes again from the safety of snow-bound Kabul. . . a true representative of American imperialism suggests we will be there for a lengthy occupation. All we need to do is buy their loyalty and put them all on welfare.

Meanwhile, we are being hammered by third world lowlife in Copenhagen to put them on the dole. . . but we ain't got no more money honey.

Posted by: alance | December 14, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

This whole "review" was theater designed to end at the time of the Peace Prize so Obama could give the kind of speech he praised in his autobiography: anyone can read anything they want into it and into him. It has had precisely that effect.

But the bottom line is that we have a limited number of troops. The troops in Afghanistan basically must come from Iraq. As that withdrawal drags somewhat, so must the transfer. It would be fascinating to see what happens if something blows up in Iraq.

Posted by: jhough1 | December 14, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Everybody knows that the only reason US troops are in Afghanistan, is to keep the opium fields in full production. Until we remove all our troops from the middle-east, and do something to solve our problems at home, our reputation in every country is ruined. If I could afford to go anywhere after the damage the neoconservative war/profit-mongers have done to our economy, I would definitely say I was from Canada. I invite you to my pages devoted to raising awareness on these important issues:

Posted by: scottdavene | December 14, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

It's a very mountainous, snowy country. It slows everything down. Domestically, sadly we've just had another reminder of this on Mt. Hood in Oregon.
... Let alone the other dfficulties. Timely, well co-ordinated intel in such a place, with so many different tribes and languages is just for starters. ... Allies troop movements, the 3 shift nature of the work, 24/7, 365. The other infrastructure needs of the populace, etc.
... Your column's timeline seems about right to me.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 14, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

One of the great things about General Eisenhower was His mastery of the support supplies, back at Normandy, the largest successful amphibious assault in world history.
... Lots of water, back then.
.... Lots of snow in Afghanistan. ... And snipers. ... So each soldier has to be up to speed, especially with regard to survival skills in very rugged terrain. Train right and do it right. Don't rush any aspect of it, no matter how small.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 14, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

In July 2011 Obama can always have a big party with troops, put up a huge "Mission Accomplished" banner, and call it victory, just as GW Bush did with Iraq.

You have to think in terms of what is in the best interest of a politician to see things more clearly.

Posted by: Single_Payer | December 14, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

You were not the only one to note the "fuzzy math."

Posted by: MAJUSMCRET | December 15, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

It is a real shame that you did not point out PAKISTAN as HBO was able to do with REAL TIME exposure of what is going on!

A real shame sir!

HBO was able to gather that footage witht he INDIAN government to show REAL TESTIMONY from a child terrorist who was sold by his parents in Pakistan.

Such a shame sir!


Posted by: sasha2008 | December 15, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

As President he should tell the foot-dragging , string it along as long as you can military to get it done. I dont by this stuff that the military cant get it done by the deadline. Who knows for what reason the military and neocons embedded therein want to keep fighting and wasting young peoples blood and our resources to keep their business/careers going. Probably,The military industrial complex must go one to glory and profits. What have we come to????

Posted by: JerryOlek | December 16, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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