Quickie: Tent Problems with Team USA in Kabul?

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Mark Perry, a military and foreign policy analyst whose most recent book is
Partners in Command, George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace has an interesting article in the December 10 issue of Asia Times (The day the general made a misstep).

Some quite meaty blind quotes if you ask me, not just from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, er make that from the 3Ds. But if there’s smoke, there’s fire. So the fact that these relationship and personality problems are leaking out means that whatever other larger problems we have in Afghanistan, our first problem appears to be with the Team USA tent we have pitched in Kabul.

Quote 1: A US Development officer says:

“They absolutely flooded the zone.” […]”There must have been hundreds of them. They were in every province, every village, talking to everyone. There were 10 of them for every one of us.”

Quote 2: A senior State Department official says with a tinge of bitterness:

“What a shock. If you deploy a gang squad, they’re going to find a gang.” […] “They were looking for an insurgency and they found one.”

Quote 3: From an Eikenberry colleague:

“McChrystal came in and he just thought he was some kind of Roman proconsul, a [Douglas] MacArthur.” […] “He was going to run the whole thing. He didn’t need to consult with the State Department or civilians, let alone the ambassador. This was not only the military’s show, it was his show.”

Quote 4: A senior Pentagon official:

The PACC is “a stovepipe operation” [….]. “It’s beautiful. It’s headed up by McChrystal acolytes, former special operations officers who view him [McChrystal] as their patron. So they follow his lead. And there is no requirement for them to share any of the information they get from Kabul with the State Department or anyone else – let alone with Eikenberry. This is McChrystal’s game. The PACC people in Washington pass information to McChrystal without going through any channels and they take the best information from Kabul and they brief [JCS chairman Admiral Mike] Mullen – and he briefs the president. So during the run-up to the Afghanistan decision, the military always looked current. They had the best information. Everyone else looked like a bunch of amateurs. Eikenberry was out of the loop. He had no chop [influence] on any of it. They just ran circles around him.”

Quote 5: A senior State Department official in Washington:

“We kept saying ‘we need to open up to the other side, like we did in Iraq with the Anbar insurgency,’ and the military kept saying, ‘well this isn’t Iraq.’ And so we’d answer: ‘fine, so if Afghanistan isn’t Iraq, then why do you keep talking about a surge?’ And we never got an answer.”

Quote 6: One State Department employee says:

“You can only be treated like a bunch of idiots for so long before you get fed up,” […]. “It was PowerPoint after PowerPoint, all filled with this lingo and it all sounded pretty scientific. But it all amounted to the same thing – who do we kill. Well, it won’t work.”

There are at least three individuals in the article who are not wearing paper bags over their heads: James Clad, a former Pentagon deputy assistant secretary of defense for South Asia; Graham Fuller, a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Kabul and Andrew Bacevich, the dean of America’s military thinkers.

More in the article. Read the whole thing here.

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