Tuesday, September 22, 2009


If you haven't already, click here and give it a read. It is 66 pages total and has some things redacted - but there is plenty here to absorb.

Like I mentioned yesterday, what I want to do here isn't to fully parse and discuss the whole thing, but instead pull out a "Top-5" takeaways.

As time is short, here are mine;

1 --- Repeat and plea: This document is long because much of it is a repeat of concepts and ideas that have been around since both McNeill and McKiernan. This is good though, as we have a new administration and press that are new to the conflict. McChrystal states such on page 1-3 with,
"These concepts are not new. However, implemented aggressively, they will be revolutionary to our effectiveness."
Ungh, the "R"word. I'll let the hyperbole pass - as the importance of this is that it lets you know that the new strategy isn't. McChrystal is banging the same drum as McNeill and McKiernan - except this time louder.

2 --- OEF gone: If I am reading this right, then this is a big deal. Annex B "COMMAND AND CONTROL, AND COMMAND RELATIONSHIPS," page B-2 states,
Transfer OEF units OPCON to COMISAF and place them on the ISAF Combined Joint Statement of Requirements.
Why big? OEF were strictly under USA C2 and not ISAF. As such, they could do more "things" that under ISAF/NATO ROE they could not. In the end though, it is fine. What is significant though is what is under the surface here. ISAF CJSOR has been under-resourced as we have tried very hard to get NATO to do what it promised. It has not. By taking OEF units to fill the hole, we effectively say, "To h3ll with you. We give up. We'll do it."

Yes, Uncle Sam is not only taking back the keys - he is p155ed.

If there is anything very different now than a year ago -- the USA has become more unilateral vice multilateral in AFG. Ironic thing to do in a Democrat administration I guess - but that is OK as it is the right answer.

3 --- Planning 101. Go to Annex A, "Military Plans." This is a classic schooling. This is the result of McChrystal and his crew just having their fill of the Rube Goldberg construction of the Operational Plan for ISAF. A plan hobbled together from Effects and non-Effects based plans with USA, Brit and other planning concepts that just do not fit together well.

It is a good thing to happen, a mandate to clean up the plans. Not quite deck-chairs on the Titanic either, as if you cannot plan well - you will execute worse. It would be interesting to see the product that comes out from this --- probably by Christmas. War College geeks should read this section twice. Very good read.

4 --- Time Based vs. Condition Based: Look at page 2-18. Something I like is brought up, defining the new strategy as having three stages; Gain the Initiative, Strategic Consolidation, Sustained Security. A key point is made in Stage 1,
A failure to reverse the momentum of the insurgency will not only preclude success in Afghanistan, it will result in a loss of public and political support outside Afghanistan.
Very good point, one that needs repeating.

I do though have a concern with a statement in Stage 2,
As ISAF and ANSF capabilities grow over the next 12-24 months and the insurgency diminishes in critical areas, ISAF will begin a second stage....
This was a mistake. We have a Conditions Based comment .... but with a Time Based definer. The politicians will focus on the 12-24 months. What if the Condition (or Effect, if you will) of the additional forces does not cause a significant change until 36 months? What if the politicians want, as you know they will, for a status update closer to the 12 vice the 24? This raises the Political Risk way too high in exchange for a hope for any gain made by putting this in the document.

5 --- NATO is put on report: Throughout this document are very undiplomatic zingers thrown at the NATO HQs involved in Brunssum, Mons, and Brussels. One of them, repeated more than once, is on page 2-20,
Proper resourcing will be critical. The campaign in Afghanistan as been historically under-resourced and remains so today - ISAF is operating in a culture of poverty.
The natural by byproduct of NATO culmination in DEC 07. Many of the nations simply wanted to contribute enough to get their flag out front and join the parade if victory happens -- but small enough that they could not take the blame for failure.

Throughout the document you will see comments about troops not leaving bases, not getting involved with the local population, laden with caveats, not understanding COIN ..... those comments are all in the face of our NATO allies; Germany, Italy, Spain more than most.

Those are my Top-5 Take-Aways.

The Executive Summary: We know what it takes to win, we always have. We are no longer going to be quiet about it ... the stakes are too high. Lead, follow, or get the h311 out of the way.

UPDATE: In today's WaPo, two good reads here and here.

McChrystal needs as much support as he can get .... as the mini-McNamaras out there are overthinking this,
But before any decision is made, some of President Obama's civilian advisers have proposed looking at other, less costly options to address his primary goal of preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing itself in Afghanistan. Those options include a redirection of U.S. efforts -- away from protecting the Afghan population and building the Afghan state and toward persuading the Taliban to stop fighting -- as well as an escalation of targeted attacks against al-Qaeda itself in Pakistan and elsewhere.
The commander's report, administration officials said, is only one of many "inputs" the president is considering. Others include assessments from the State Department, the intelligence community and his White House advisers.

Obama's decision is complicated by a deepening domestic political divide and no guarantee of success whichever option he chooses. One observer, characterizing the president's dilemma at its most extreme, said: "He can send more troops and it will be a disaster and he will destroy the Democratic Party. Or he can send no more troops and it will be a disaster and the Republicans will say he lost the war."
Why be worried - harumph.
But Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Navy veteran of Vietnam who once led opposition to that war, praised Obama's deliberative pace.

"All the president is saying is that he wants to take the time to make sure this decision is not done like the Gulf of Tonkin" resolution, where "underlying assumptions aren't questioned," Kerry said. The 1964 joint congressional resolution, based on false information about North Vietnamese actions and adopted amid an anti-communist frenzy, authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force in Southeast Asia.
Some people have never left Vietnam.

There is one thing from Vietnam that does translate - that is the Strategic Center of Gravity ..... and it is right inside the DC Beltway.
UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: Things get more and more interesting. Over at Politico, they are talking about the DC whodunit WRT the leak.
Bob Woodward’s Monday-morning exclusive on a 66-page report from Gen. Stanley McChrystal to President Barack Obama about Afghanistan policy was a rite of passage for the new administration: the first major national security leak and a sure sign that the celebrated Washington Post reporter has penetrated yet another administration.

White House officials greeted the leak with a grimace, but none suggested they’d begin a witch hunt for the leaker. Woodward is famous for his access to the principals themselves — he recently traveled to Afghanistan with National Security Adviser James Jones — and leak hunters couldn’t expect with confidence that they’d find themselves disciplining just an undisciplined junior staffer.
Via Greyhawk, there is also this tid-bit from Roggio.
Within 24 hours of the leak of the Afghanistan assessment to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal's team fired its second shot across the bow of the Obama administration. According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn't given sufficient resources (read "troops") to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan:

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