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Comments on Ray McGoverns' Assessment on Afghan Strategy

November 21, 2009
Comments on Ray McGovern's Assessment on Afghan Strategy
by Arn Specter, Phila. (Twitter)

I've found the following article by Ray McGovern to be very instructive.
McChrystal to Obama: Fogh You; McChrystal Testing the Limits
McGovern takes us inside the heads of President Obama, Gen. McChrystal,
Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the people and forces concerned about the
war in Afghanistan now and in the future.

McGovern objects strongly to Gen. McChrystal's forceful asking for many
more troops to be deployed and warns against the military influence on
a President who needs to take a firm stand against increasing troop levels.
Too, McGovern criticizes Rasmussen for following the strongest forces at
work in the US, formerly siding with George Bush and now with the US military.

While agreeing with McGovern's positions for a stronger Presidential response in the current policy review I would add that the US can lead an effort for the
creating of stability and security in unstable Afghanistan by calling forth a meeting of the many "forces" involved for the purpose of considering the establishing a United Nations Protectorate in that country.

In my article (see below),
Options for Afghanistan; CNAS Report; United Nations Protectorate , October 20, 2009, OPEDNews I comment,

'I've advocated a two stage strategy for the U.S. and International community.

1) hold off on deploying more U.S./NATO troops for Afghanistan.
2) call for an international conference of all 'parties', the U.S. NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League and gain the insights and opinions of all concerned and develop a long-term plan for creating a stable,and secure Afghan state and culture.
A long-term plan might include the establishing Afghan as a UN Protectorate for a few years, giving protection to the millions of people there and a chance for progressive forces to change the government while maintaining a climate of peace.'

Hopefully it is not too late to lobby the President to hold off more troop deployment and to take progressive action that would include the participation of a broad based coalition of forces that could create long-term security in the country and region. That strategy would include the Pakistan efforts as well which would curtail any further growth of the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Arn Specter, Phila.
Original Content at

November 20, 2009
McChrystal to Obama: Fogh You; McChrystal Testing the Limits
By Ray McGovern
It is not too late for President Barack Obama to follow the example of Harry Truman, who fired Gen. Douglas McArthur in 1951 for insubordination.
Then, as now, the stakes were high.Then it was Korea; now it is Afghanistan.
No more slaps on the wrist for Gen. Stanley McChrystal.In my view,
Commander-in-Chief Obama should fire him for cause.
In the Truman-McArthur showdown nearly six decades ago, the President and his senior advisers were preparing to engage North Korea and China in peace negotiations, when MacArthur, commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the war into China.
McArthur had been playing a back-channel game to win the support of like-minded Republican congressmen to widen the war, when Truman faced him down.With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretaries of state and defense, he rose to the occasion and fired the distinguished “old soldier.”
Today, Gen. McChrystal is conducting a subtler but equally insubordinate campaign for wider war in Afghanistan, with the backing of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus.It is now even clearer in retrospect that the President should not have appointed McChrystal in the first place, given what was already known of his role in covering up the killing of football star Pat Tillman and condoning the torture practices by troops under McChrystal's earlier command in Iraq.
Two months ago when McChrystal became more and more outspoken about what he considered the best approach to the Afghanistan war, policy discussions were under way in Washington to help the President make enlightened policy choices among the various views and possibilities.Since decisions were (are?) still pending, and since McChrystal's private input was already part of the mix, he was clearly out of line in going public at so sensitive a time.
Senior generals know better than to do that; there is little doubt his outspokenness was deliberate.McChrystal should meet the same fate as McArthur, and “silently steal away.” Obama should have taken the telegenic general to the woodshed instead of inviting him to confer quietly on Air Force One.
McChrystal to Obama: Fogh You
McChrystal's continuing defiance shines through in the gratuitous remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a NATO meeting on Nov. 17 in Edinburgh.Siding clearly with McChrystal, Petraeus, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen in the intense debate over sending more forces to Afghanistan, Rasmussen blithely announced that NATO countries will soon order “substantially more forces” there.
Rasmussen promised “new momentum” behind the military campaign, adding, “I'm confident it will be a counter-insurgency approach,” which is what McChrystal says he needs 40,000 additional American troops to undertake.

But here's the thing: Rasmussen's past behavior makes it abundantly clear that, on such matters, the only tea leaves he reads are the ones given him by those he concludes wield the real power in Washington.Besides, he was one of George W. Bush's best buddies in the days of “shock and awe.”

Something Rotten in Denmark
As Denmark's Prime Minister (2001-2009), Anders Fogh Rasmussen was one of George W. Bush's most sycophantic supporters—particularly when it came to the war on Iraq.Although amply warned by Danish intelligence officers of the deceptive nature of the U.S. case for war, he shunned them and outdid himself cheerleading for war.
For example, while Danish intelligence professionals told then-Prime Minister Rasmussen there was very little evidence that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," he decided to take his cue from the neo-cons in Washington.On the day before the invasion of Iraq he told the Danish Parliament:

"Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we just believe.
We know." Thus, Rasmussen has a long record of kowtowing to what he perceives to be the power center in Washington.And his perception now?Apparently it is that the real power ain't in the White House this time; it's in the Pentagon.

As NATO Secretary General Rasmussen was announcing what he called plans to send “substantially more forces” to Afghanistan, President Obama, in Beijing, struck a defensive tone in telling CBS News, “I think that Gen. McChrystal shares the same goal I do.”
Wait a second; he thinks?

Granted that the President has a lot on his plate and, in my view, is to be applauded for the deliberate pace he has set on making big decisions on Afghanistan, he is projecting the image of a Mr. Milquetoast—a highly educated, well-spoken wuss on many key issues.This is not only damaging on the international scene; it gives the U.S. military and domestic political rivals the idea that he is a slow-moving lightweight, who can be either easily pushed around or evaded when it comes to issues on which they are deeply engaged—like Afghanistan.
Even regarding Rasmussen himself, President Obama was warned about the former Danish prime minister's subservience to Bush and the neo-cons, and yet did not lift a finger to prevent Rasmussen from becoming NATO Secretary General.

Must stunning is Obama's caving in on the issue of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian areas.In a plaintive, powerless tone, Obama told Fox News on Nov. 18: “Well, there is no doubt that I haven't been able to stop the settlements.”
As for his domestic priority of health care, he has not been heard to protest as the draft legislation falls far short of his own expectations.

Kid Gloves for Karzai
In the same acquiescent tone, Obama's senior policy people are telling the Washington Post that U.S. officials, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on down, have now “turned on the charm” with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.According to the Post, the administration has decided that its tough approach to Karzai was counterproductive, “fueling stress and anger in a beleaguered, conspiracy-minded leader whom the U.S. government needs as a partner.”

ThePost article says that criticism of the earlier approach is most pronounced among senior U.S. military leaders, who complain about the failure of the State Department to “fix” Karzai's government.Sensitive to that kind of charge, Secretary Clinton is said to have urged Karzai “to use merit, not cronyism, as a criteria (sic) for filling cabinet posts,” according to the Post.That should be enough to take care of that problem, don't you suppose?
This may be part of what the Post's hard-right columnist, Michael Gerson had in mind in his Friday op-ed, titled “Obama the Undecider,” as Gerson criticized Washington's “dysfunctional Afghan decision-making process.”More to the point, Gerson reported that Gen. McChrystal is feeling “stabbed in the back” by the leak of two classified messages from U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (and former Army general) Karl Eikenberry, arguing against troop increases.

Gerson, actually, makes a valid point in summing up Obama's dilemma.Depending on his ultimate decision, the president “will be vulnerable to charges of buckling to military pressure or disregarding the advice of his commanders.”
The sooner President Obama accepts that there is no win-win solution to his dilemma, the better.

Right-wing pressure, including from Robert Gates, the defense secretary Obama kept on from the Bush administration, will not abate.At a press conference yesterday, Gates, who reportedly favors sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan made it seem like a foregone conclusion that the President will opt (has opted?) to escalate.He said:
“"I anticipate that as soon as the president makes his decision, we can probably begin flowing some forces pretty quickly after that.”

Adm. Mullen was even more specific:
“We think we have a way ahead. But as the secretary said, it's not going to be five brigades -- it's not going to be a brigade a month because of the infrastructure piece -- the ability to receive it, literally, in Afghanistan.

Pundit Certainty
Most pundits already had concluded, even before Thursday's remarks, that the basic decision to send more troops was a done deal, that the only question remaining is how many can be sent and how quickly, and that Obama's continuing consultation with senior advisors is a charade.They may be right.I'm not sure.

However, if the President is, as he claimed this week, “angrier than Bob Gates about the leaks” regarding Afghanistan policy deliberations, I would think his anger would extend to those feeding talking points to the likes of Rasmussen.There remains a chance, I believe, that Obama may decide to stop letting himself be pushed around.
If Obama does not put a decisive end to McChrystal's politicking, and does not remonstrate with Rasmussen, we can conclude that the pundits are right.If so, and if the troop increase is substantial—even though it will probably be portrayed as mostly for training of the (barely existent) Afghan army—disaster looms both in Afghanistan and in the corridors of power in Washington.

The dangerous impression would persist that, when the chips were down, Obama is no Jack Kennedy, nor Harry Truman, both of whom had the guts to face down the Pentagon by rebuffing military demands for wider war.
It would be difficult indeed to write a Profile in Courage for one who bowed as low to his recalcitrant, myopic generals, as he did, de rigueur, to the Japanese emperor last Saturday.

If Obama does bow to the generals, “transfer cases” (the euphemism the Washington Post uses for coffins carrying soldiers' remains) will continue to arrive in Delaware—and in greater numbers.By expanding the war in Afghanistan, Obama would let down these dead soldiers and their grieving families.Euphemism will be no help at all.And it will be a daunting challenge, to even the most soaring rhetoric, to make a persuasive case that these dead have not died in vain.
The supreme irony would remain; namely, that the Republicans would continue to batter Obama, whatever he does regarding a war that their erstwhile hero George W. Bush started but could not finish.

Already, many demoralized Democrats are looking fearfully toward Election 2010 and then Election 2012 when the Republicans could attribute the continuing quagmire in Afghanistan to Obama's “indecision,” and to cite this as proof that he does not deserve a second term.
At that point I can visualize a GOP ticket headed by Petraeus and Gates and a platform advocating, as McArthur did so many years ago, for wider war.

Now is the time for President Obama to stop this latest March of Folly.Now.

Author's Bio: Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Original Content at

October 20, 2009

Options for Afghanistan; CNAS Report; United Nations Protectorate

By arn specter

The US is now reviewing its policy for Afghan, considering more troop depoloyments and overall strategy. This CNAS report and my analysis speak of options for making that deision and making progress in Afghan.


October 20, 2009
Options for Afghanistan; CNAS Report; United Nations Protectorate
by Arn Specter, Phila.
(Twitter and
The following report, CNAS (Center for New American Security)
by Andrew Exum, offers 3 scenarios for U.S. and Allied actions
in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) and the region.
Two new factors, since the report, are:
1) Pakistan's mobilization of 30,000 troops now fighting in SW Pakistan
against the Taliban and South Waziristan.
2) The Karzai government agreeing to the call by the United Nations to redo
the Afghan elections soon.

While Gen. McCrystal and his supporters want many more troops as soon as possible the Obama Administration and it's supporters want to link their review
and decision on renewed U.S. policy and further actions in Afghan on final elections in Afghanistan, which won't be for awhile yet.
It seems that in many of the talks and considerations about new strategies
and actions for Afghanistan there isn't nearly enough consideration given
to the need for more diplomacy and negotiations with the Taliban and al-Qaeda,
along with the Afghan, Pakistan governments, NATO and the United Nations.
It may be helpful is the U.S. Department of State and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton stood up and called for more diplomacy. Also if the European
Community, providers of the NATO forces, offered their diplomatic expertise
to the discussions. Too, the United Nations could aid the effort.
It is fortunate that the Obama administration has held off making a quick decision on more troops for Afghanistan, so that a lively dialogue could take place both within the halls of Washington and in the U.S. and World media and among those
in the public who are interested in peacemaking and the end to the wars.
The situation there is extremely complex with no clear solution to the 'problem'.
This report by Andrew Exum does offer some valuable insights and possible courses of action that - in the long run- could bring much greater security and stablilty in Afghanistan and the region.
One of the great difficulties there however is that the Karsai government has been shown to be corrupt, now associated with violent warlords in power positions.
The U.S. (with taxpayer monies) has been giving millions and billions of dollars to this corrupt government over the years. It is obvious, with the Taliban gaining more power now than before, that this support of Karzai by the U.S. has cost the U.S. plenty, a failure in policy to the detriment of U.S. objectives and the welfare
of the Afghan people many who live in abject poverty and suffer many repressions- especially the women there who bravely call out fortheir human rights tohonored and upheld by the government and religious leaders.
In his section, A Foundation for Peace, Exum says, "The best case scenario
for Afghanistan is a functioning Afghan state inhospitable to transnational terror groups. In this scenario, a government representing all major factions in Afghanistan, however imperfectly, would be essential..."
Unfortunately a stable, secure and competent Afghan government is highly
unlikely given the reign of president Karzai and his recent inclusion of Warlords
in his government.The 'problem' seems to me much bigger than the U.S. and the Afghan government can resolve.A long-term plan is needed to stabilize the country. Such an effort calls for the international community to participate and even lead the way.
I've advocated a two stage strategy for the U.S. and International community.
1) hold off on deploying more U.S./NATO troops for Afghanistan.
2) call for an internationalconference of all 'parties', the U.S. NATO, the EuropeanUnion, the United Nations, the Arab League and gain the insights and opinions of all concerned anddevelop a long-term plan for creating a stable,and secure Afghan state and culture.
A long-term plan might include the establishing Afghan as a UN protectorate
for a few years, giving protection to the millions of people there and a chance for progressive forces to change the government while maintaining a climate of peace.
Also, a serious effort needs to be made to end the poppy/opium cultivation and trade. this illicit and dangerous business has harmed many thousands of people, their families and communities. It also has generated funds which has supported the corrupt Karzai government and the Taliban forces as well.
While some attempts have been made by the U.S./NATO forces to diminish the poppy cultivation and production the trade and business continues making billions of dollars every year and further corrupting the country. It may be that only outside forces, such as the United Nations, can actually take the kinds of actions and establish the laws that would prohibit the cultivation and sale of opium in Afghanistan...certainly if would be well worth the effort.
There is some time now before the U.S. completes the review and makes its decision on U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Perhaps our input to the administration and Congress can make a difference for the better.
Arn Specter, Phila. (Twitter and

CNAS Releases Afghanistan Policy Brief By Andrew Exum

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 20, 2009 – After eight years of conflict and an ongoing policy review by the Obama Administration, the future of Afghanistan remains uncertain. As the latest assessment in Washington takes place amidst a contested Afghan national election, conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate. In Afghanistan 2011: Three Scenarios, a new policy brief published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Fellow Andrew Exum discusses three possible scenarios for what Afghanistan might look like in 2011 that the Obama Administration should consider while reviewing its strategy.
Read the full policy brief here.

Exum, who was a civilian advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, writes that the Obama Administration should consider three scenarios:

In the “worst-case” and most unlikely scenario, Afghanistan returns to pre-9/11 conditions where insurgent groups again gain control of the nation, reestablish an Islamic Emirate, and grant refuge to transnational terror groups.
In the “most-likely” scenario, the Obama Administration cautiously transitions to a coordinatedcounterterrorism mission where allied engagement is limited to training Afghanistan national security forces, employing precision airpower and conducting direct-action special operations.
In the third and “best-case” scenario, the United States and its allies agree to a fully resourced campaign to provide security for key population centers and continue to develop effective security forces. By committing to a foundation for peace in Afghanistan, the United States and its allies achieve its main policy objective of regional stability.
About the author: Andrew Exum is a Fellow at CNAS. He served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 2000 until 2004. He led a platoon of light infantry in Afghanistan in 2002 and a platoon of Army Rangers in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Most recently, Exum served as an advisor on the CENTCOM Assessment Team and as a civilian advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. He is the founder of the counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama.


The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.

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