Stories related to the recent WikiLeaks documents about the war in Afghanistan dominate the news with two major themes. One holds a more conservative viewpoint, emphasizing the damage inflicted by making such documents public, and the other insists that the information supports arguments for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Common to both themes, however, are the details of Barack Obama’s strategy for the war that unfortunately have very little chance of success.1
“I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan,” Obama said, announcing the foundation of his strategy at West Point in December. “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.” He told the audience of cadets that the military goal is “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.” The three objectives he proposed to meet the goal – denying al Qaeda a safe haven, reversing the Taliban’s momentum so it is not able to overthrow the government, and strengthening the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for their nation’s future – are supposed to be met with a counterinsurgency strategy that will effectively end in July 2011, when the American military is scheduled to begin its withdrawal.2
Obama’s rhetoric and actions show that he does not comprehend the basic psychology of warfare that has existed through the entire course of human civilization. Rules of engagement need to be applied with priorities for plans, alliances, military resources, and civilian populations in spatial and temporal dimensions. In other words, the primary objective of the American military in Afghanistan right now must be the development of intelligence assets in order to nurture the proper alliances that can assist Afghanistan’s government and security forces in protecting their own population. Obama is trying to achieve victory after engaging in battle with an enemy, but the reality of war is that resources are being wasted with a counterinsurgency strategy that embeds U.S. troops in Afghan villages before conditions are realized for any such victory.3
1. C.J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Andrew W. Lehren, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez, and Eric Schmitt, “View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, July 25, 2010, Asia Pacific. Hans von Spakovsky, “The WikiLeaks Assault on the Rule of Law and National Security,” The Foundry, http://blog.heritage.org/2010/07/26/the-wikileaks-assault-on-the-rule-of-law-and-national-security. Gerald F. Seib, “As in Nixon’s Time, Documents Feed War Doubts,” The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2010, The Afghan War Documents.
2. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forward-afghanistan-and-pakistan.
3. Ronald Grey, “Intelligence in War,” https://ronaldgrey.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/intelligence-in-war.