Shrapnel From Afghanistan VII



In a June 24 video-conference, McChrystal told me for the first time that he had found the situation in Afghanistan much worse than he expected.  In the south, he said, insurgents controlled five of thirteen districts in Helmand province.  Kandahar was under pressure, and much of the region was “not under our control.”  The Afghan forces in the south were at only about 70 percent of authorized strength, and there was a big retention problem.  In the east, the Haqqani network was expanding its operational reach, “but our guys have a pretty good handle on the situation there.”  Overall, he said, governance was very bad and creating a lot of problems: “There is no legitimacy.”  When I asked him if he had enough ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), his answer provoked the only smiles in the session:  “Sir, I am genetically predisposed to never say I have enough.”…



from the memoirs entitled



U.S. Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates

Copyright 2014


The priority, I said (in a memo to President Obama), should be to expand the Afghan security forces as quickly as possible.  Additional U.S. and allied forces should be considered a temporary “bridge” to train those Afghans while keeping the situation on the ground from deteriorating further, at least until the Afghans could protect their own territory and keep the Taliban and al Qaeda out…


We could not realistically expect to eliminate the Taliban; they were now a part of the political fabric of Afghanistan.  But we could realistically work to reverse their military momentum, deny them the ability to hold or control major population centers, and pressure them along the Pakistani border…


All this would give us a mission that the public and the politicians could easily understand: “Deny the Taliban momentum and control, facilitate reintegration, build government capacity selectively, grow the Afghan security forces, transfer security responsibilities, and defeat al Qaeda.”…


The original military plan had the deployments spaced out over more than a year.  The president correctly pointed out that that could hardly be characterized as a “surge” to recapture momentum.  He asked Petraeus how fast the surge had arrived in Iraq.  About six months, Petraeus said.  Obama decided the arrival of the troops in Afghanistan had to be significantly accelerated.  The military leadership ultimately agreed to get most of the troops there by the end of August 2010 ~ a logistical nightmare, but they managed it…


to be continued…

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