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Posts Tagged ‘Secretary Gates’

"End game"

May 25th, 2010 Comments off
barack_obama_attends_a_briefing_on_afghanistan_in_the_situation_room_of_the_white_house

FB Ali via SST/ here

The players involved in the conflict in Afghanistan have all concluded that neither side can achieve a military victory and that it will end in some other way, probably through a negotiated solution. Since each of them has different goals, this end game is likely to be both confusing and complicated……

The mainstream viewpoint in the US administration, espoused by Secretary Gates and the military hierarchy, accepts the inevitability of a negotiated settlement but wants one that preserves a friendly government in Kabul that continues to lean on the US for support. If Taliban participation is unavoidable, it must be as limited as possible. They believe the insurgency has not yet been weakened enough to accept this kind of a settlement, and thus further military action is necessary. Hence the forthcoming Kandahar operation, as well as renewed pressure on Pakistan to complete the military takeover of its tribal areas. President Obama is going along with this policy for now but does not appear committed to it; he could abandon it if the approach does not work as successfully as its proponents promise.

Another school of thought in the administration (possibly including VP Biden) could be termed the minimalist position: it would agree to any kind of a negotiated settlement between the Afghan parties that would enable the US to get out of there expeditiously. They would like Hamid Karzai to pursue this option as soon as possible and get the best deal he can. There is also still a maximalist position in the US, advanced by those groups who believe the US should dominate the world with its military power, and who were the original backers of the Iraq and Afghan wars. This group advocates the continuation of the war until the Taliban are defeated and al-Qaeda is eradicated from the region. Its supporters in the administration maintain a low profile since this position is unlikely to ever become administration policy. (continue/ here)

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"…That clock is ticking. The Afghan insurgents can hear it ticking. The generals do not have the time they would need to make their strategy work"

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Lang at SST/ here

“Some group of “Taliban” have now claimed yesterday’s attack on the airfield at Kandahar. Mortar fire, rockets and ground action around the perimeter marked the event. Evidently this went on for some hours. ….. This follows on a recent Taliban declaration of their intention to conduct a Spring offensive. In that context, there have been attacks in Kabul, and ambitious and successful ambushes of vehicular convoys. So far, the opposition is not “fixed” in the military sense of “finding, fixing and finishing” the enemy. “Fixing” here means that the enemy must be dominated and held in position while the process is brought to end. That does not seem to be happening. This is a bad portent for the future.

I keep saying that the preliminary COIN effort at Marja is a predictor of what the likely prospects are for COIN success at Kandahar and elsewhere around the country. Where is the news from Marja?

Time is short. William Hague, the new British foreign minister urges the US not to withdraw “too soon” from Afghanistan. That is easy for him to say. His government is new and not yet scarred. The horizon seems far away just now. For President Obama the horizon is close and approaching fast. We have learned now that Obama recognized during the Afghan policy debate that the generals and admirals were trying to “roll” him for what they wanted. They wanted a long COIN war in Afghanistan with an open ended commitment to that war. He called Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates to his office and summoned them to subordination. The threat behind that was obvious. In spite of that he gave them much of what they wanted, but with a caveat driven by his political need to start the end of the war before November, 2012.

That clock is ticking. The Afghan insurgents can hear it ticking. The generals do not have the time they would need to make their strategy work.

The West Point commencement speech yesterday was interesting. It becomes increasingly obvious that Obama is both a social democrat and an internationalist in the classic old mold. These are heavy political burdens for a candidate to bear these days. He will not be able to bear an additional burden in Afghanistan in 2012.”

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Gates’ message to those in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff & CENTCOM: "clam it on Israel…"

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

Laura Rosen/ here

“… “Don’t forget that the office of the Secretary of Defense [sees its role as to] ride herd on the uniformed personnel,” the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Patrick Clawson said. Part of their job “is to keep the uniformed military [from] speak[ing] out on policy issues.”

The suggestion is that Gates’s showing of high honor to the Israeli defense chief may have been a message to those specifically in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Central Command to, in essence, clam it. ……

…… At a joint Gates-Barak media appearance at the Pentatgon Tuesday, Israeli Channel 10’s Gil Tamari asked … “Secretary Gates and Minister Barak, …. if you can just explain us, why do you host this press availability now?” Tamari asked. “Is it because this administration would like to portray a feeling of business as usual with the Israeli government when the general perception, as you well know, is that business is not so usual between Israel and the United States right now?“
“And … is the real perception of the Pentagon — that, like [Centcom commander] General [David] Petraeus suggested, that the United States is paying a price with the life of American soldiers when Israel is not reaching peace with the Palestinians?” Tamari continued.

Gates jumped in to answer the second question.

“First of all, General Petraeus did not say that the lack of progress in the peace process is costing American lives,” Gates said. “And no one in this department, in or out of uniform, believes that.”

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"… McChrystal is a great killer but this war is above his head. He must be watched …"

April 25th, 2010 Comments off

The facebook entry that got Michael Yon ‘in trouble’…

“…The disembed from McChrytal’s top staff (meaning from McChrystal himself) is a very bad sign. Sends chills that McChrystal himself thinks we are losing the war. McChrystal has a history of covering up. This causes concern that McChrystal might be misleading SecDef and President. Are they getting the facts?

… Life was good before I went to Iraq. But after three friends were killed during the GWOT, and my growing mistrust for the media and for the US Government/Military, I quit traveling the world and went to war. The United States was in peril. I am American. Today, I do not trust McChrystal anymore than some people trust the New York Times, Obama or Bush. If McChrystal could be trusted, I would go back to my better life. McChrystal is a great killer but this war is above his head. He must be watched….”

Soldiers at FOB Frontenac erected tepee to honor their fallen comrades. Secretary Gates went inside to pay respects.

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withholding US military & intelligence cooperation is "one of the sticks" Obama’s men wielded in conversations with Netanyahu & Oren

March 17th, 2010 Comments off

MEPGS: Excerpts:
As US officials appear to be backing away from a confrontation with Israel in the wake of Vice President Biden's controversial visit, there are more than a few bruised feelings on both sides. More important, it seems likely that the Israeli- US relationship is in for even tougher times in the weeks and months ahead. To begin with, it is clear that orders came from the top, no less than President Obama, that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was to be confronted over the embarrassing decision......... The scolding delivered Secretary of State Clinton, over the phone to the Israeli Prime Minister and in person to Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the US, was exceptional both in its tone and the scope of its demands. According to published reports, Clinton not only insisted that the Israelis find a way to insure that such an embarrassment never be allowed to take place again but added three new demands. First, the US wants assurances, the now delayed "proximity talks" transition to direct talks on all topics [Previously this was an Administration assumption]. Second, they said they wanted Israel to make a gesture to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was already ambivalent about the value of these talks. Finally, and most controversial, Israel was to find a way to halt construction of the new housing units. According to informed sources, a short deadline was set for Israel to respond -- a deadline that has not been met. Moreover, the tone employed by Clinton outraged Israeli officials. Said one well-placed source, "They don't talk to [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez that way." As this drama was unfolding, a number of senior level Administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel were trying to calm the waters. Others, like CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, were, in effect, adding fuel to the fire, when in Congressional testimony, he alluded to the lack of progress on Arab-Israeli talks causing additional problems for US military planners , already engaged in combat in the muslim world. Moreover, according to well-placed sources, withholding US military and intelligence cooperation is "one of the sticks" the Administration wielded in its conversations with Netanyahu and Oren.
Even if, as many observers believe, this imbroglio in contained, a number of key officials say it is only a matter of time before Israel and the US are once again at loggerheads, if not over the peace process then over a strategy for dealing with Iran. Part of the reason for Biden's visit to Israel and that of a number of other top civilian and military leaders there in recent weeks, is to make certain, in the words of one top US official "...that Israel is `on board'" with the American approach to handling Iran's headlong rush towards nuclear development. US officials candidly share political strategy with the Israelis regarding their approach to implementing new sanctions against Teheran at the UN and elsewhere [US officials have even gone so far as to try to enlist Israeli cooperation in fending off Congressional attempts to pass legislation penalizing foreign companies doing business with Iran. As one top US official puts it, "We know the Hill's intentions are good. Just the way they are going about it will upset our plans to work with other countries who will see their efforts as an attempt to impose `extraterritoriality' on them"]. The first goal is to get a new resolution from the Security Council. At latest count, eleven of the fifteen members have informally signed on. Brazil and Turkey continue to be a problem. Lebanon, with its dominant Iranian-backed militia, Hezbollah, is considered a lost cause. But the big prize remains China and its veto. So, far US officials have not given up hope on gaining China's acquiescence to a mild resolution but may well have to settle for an abstention. The importance of the UN vote lies in its acting as a catalyst for other nations, notably the European Union [EU] to impose a series of much stronger, if not exactly "crippling" sanctions on Iran. And the target will be the Revolutionary Guards, which according to some top US officials, now control more than one-third of the Iranian economy [The prospect of imposing sanctions on oil imports, upon which Iran, ironically is dependent because of its limited refining capacity, has been pretty much taken off of the table -- partly, say top US officials because of the difficulty of enforcing such a regime and according to others, because in could impose "undue" hardship on the average Iranian]. ........But with thousands of American troops destined to remain in next door Iraq
for the foreseeable future and thousands more going into battle
daily in Afghanistan, another Iranian neighbor, the last thing the US military, including Defense Secretary Gates, wants is a military confrontation with Iran. But if, as some experts argue, sanctions are doomed to failure, what are the other options? One US expert, close to Gates as well and National Security Advisor Jones, argues that it is time to jettison this "sanctions fantasy" and prepare to deal with a nuclear armed Iran. According to well-placed officials, this would mean a continued tightening of sanctions and eventual isolation of Iran from most of the world's commerce. However, opponents of this approach argue that should Israel get wind of "post nuclear planning" for Iran, Jerusalem would be sure to act unilaterally.. Already frustrated by a timetable that has slipped from last December to April for UN sanctions action [considered a good time with Japan as Security Council Chair for the month and preceding Lebanon's assumption of the role], it is clear that the Israelis are running out of patience. Moreover, intelligence sources believe that while the Israeli security establishment still is unsure of its ability to mount a highly effective attack on Iran proper, it has become increasingly confident of its ability to withstand and defeat any Iranian retaliation, notably a missile attack launched by Hezbollah on Israel's north.
A number of well-placed sources say that for Israel, 2010 is the year of decision. If by the end of the year, Iran has not started to retreat in the face of international pressure, then Israel will begin to seriously prepare for military action. As one top US official puts it, "Israel hasn't made the decision to act. But it has crossed the psychological barrier to act." If true, then today's tensions with Washington will seem quite modest. "

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No change in U.S. withdrawal from Iraq

February 23rd, 2010 Comments off

UPDATE 1: Drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq moving ahead as planned, U.S Defense Secretary Gates says.
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Obama "disappointed & misled"?

January 10th, 2010 Comments off

LR/ here

Said that the “White House is disappointed with the slow pace of the Afghan surge and wonders if top Pentagon officials misled them about how quickly they could surge forces to Afghanistan … “
However, “Senior Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell writes, “There is no story here. …. this is a totally contrived controversy fabricated” by the NYTimes. “No one from the WH has expressed any displeasure or concern over the pace of the surge thus far to us. It has been a month since the President announced the surge and already two Marine battalions are on the ground and a SEABEE battalion is arriving as we speak. We are on pace to have 92 percent of the surge forces there by the end of August and the rest hopefully in place by the end of summer. Secretary Gates is well aware that the President has ordered an expedited Surge rather than a protacted deployment and in light of that the Secretary has directed the department to move heaven and earth to make it happen on the President’s prescribed timelines, but this is a logistical challenge the likes of which we have hardly ever faced before so it is going to be very difficult. That said, we are doing everything we possibly can to get all these troops to Afghanistan by summer’s end because we all wish to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and win this conflict as soon as possible.”

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NSC watching closely the "other team" to prevent "overreaching" ….

December 26th, 2009 Comments off

Via SST, here , Lang’s remarks on the piece in the WaPo

“It appears that the Afghan policy war is not over. Chandrasekaran is a good reporter but not good enough to get this unaided. Sooo, someone(s) at the NSC briefed him so that the message would be delivered to the “other team” that their behavior is being watched closely and that the NSC team is prepared to use the public media as a weapon if need be.

The reporter then went to the Defense Department where he was told their side of the story. Secretary Gates appears to have become the leader of the pentagon faction

Petraeus is interestingly absent from this nearly open struggle. He will wait to see what the outcome may be.

A major confrontation over policy and presidential authority is coming. The policy review scheduled for July 2010 may well precipitate it.

and the WaPo’s piece:

Two days before announcing the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, President Obama informed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal that he was not granting McChrystal’s request to double the size of the Afghan army and police.

Cost was a factor, as were questions about whether the capacity exists to train 400,000 personnel. The president told McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to focus for now on fielding a little more than half that number by next October.

……. McChrystal’s goal of 400,000 remained unchanged.

“It’s an open issue,” a senior Pentagon official said last week.

Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Members of Obama’s war cabinet disagree over the meaning of his pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission has been narrowed from a proposal advanced by McChrystal in his August assessment of the war. The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms.

The differences are complicating implementation of the new strategy. Some officers have responded to the July 2011 date by seeking to accelerate the pace of operations, instead of narrowing them. At the White House, a senior administration official said, the National Security Council is discussing ways to increase monitoring of military and State Department activities in Afghanistan to prevent “overreaching.”

The NSC’s strategic guidance, a classified document that outlines the president’s new approach, was described by the senior administration official as limiting military operations “in scale and scope to the minimum required to achieve two goals to prevent al-Qaeda safe havens and to prevent the Taliban from toppling the government.” The use of resource-intensive counterinsurgency tactics — employing U.S. forces to protect Afghan civilians from the Taliban — is supposed to be restricted to key cities and towns in southern and eastern parts of the country, the official said.

“The strategy has fundamentally changed. This is not a COIN strategy,” Vice President Biden said on MSNBC last week, using the military’s shorthand for counterinsurgency. “This is not ‘go out and occupy the whole country.’ “

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"… Hamid Karzai is brilliant, well educated, non-violent, a politically astute deal maker …"

December 8th, 2009 Comments off
A Gen. Barry McCaffrey 11-page assessment written on behalf of Gen. Petraeus, the full report , here (some of the peals below!)
“… Thankfully, Secretary Gates, Generals Dave Petraeus at CENTCOM and General Stan McChrystal the ISAF Commander (with the deft political-military support of US Admiral Jim Stavridis the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe) have unscrewed this mess,….”
“…. Petraeus and McChrystal are the most effective counter-insurgency strategists and counter-terrorist fighters we have produced in nine years of war,…..”
“We now have the most effective and courageous military forces in our nation’s history committed to this campaign,….. ”

“The superb leadership from Secretary Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, General Dave Petraeus, and General Stan McChrystal is objective, experienced, non-political, and determined…….”

Politico’s Laura Rosen comments:

“McCaffrey’s lavish praise for the military geniuses contrasts with notable terseness regarding the whole rest of the operation in Afghanistan, though his assessment lists interviews with top US embassy officials in Afghanistan.

Note this point, for instance, in the summary: “The international civilian agency surge will essentially not happen —although State Department officers, US AID, CIA, DEA, and the FBI will make vital contributions. Afghanistan over the next 2-3 years will be simply too dangerous for most civil agencies.”

The State Department, USAID and CIA etc. are providing “vital contributions“? Ouch.

And then also quite peculiarly, McCaffrey seems to do a bit of gushing about Afghanistan’s controversially reelected president Hamid Karzai as well, who has been the subject of much handwringing by the Obama administration and the top US civilian leadership on Afghanistan in particular.

“The Afghan nation has an elected President —Hamid Karzai –who is: brilliant, well educated, non-violent, a politically astute deal maker in a nation where murder not compromise is the normal political tool; a man who deeply cares for his people; and who is a personally courageous Afghan patriot who is constantly at risk of assassination,” McCaffrey writes. “His popularity with his own people has fallen dramatically as the Taliban have surged to greater power in part because of the ineffectiveness of his government.”

When is the last time you heard anyone in the U.S. government describe Karzai as “brilliant”?

What is going on?

And by commissioning such an assessment and having it circulate so widely, what message is Petraeus trying to send?”


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MEPGS: An Israeli attack would be designed "to force an international crisis" …

November 19th, 2009 Comments off

[MEPGS: Excerpts]
".... US officials who have a history of dealing with Abbas are not surprised at his latest pronouncements. "He has always run away from things," says one veteran US official. "But" adds this official more sympathetically, "He is genuinely fed up. And he has been stung by his friends, like Egypt and Jordan, not standing up for him." Abbas is not alone in his disappointment in the performance of moderate Arab states. Veteran analysts say one of the mistakes the Obama Administration made was to overestimate the willingness of Arab moderates to cooperate with US plans under a new more sympathetic President. To counter this, the Administration has leaned on Israel to adopt a settlement freeze. And in talks last week with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the President elicited a pledge of a freeze on new West Bank settlement construction for 10 months [According to informed sources, the President demanded a "double digit" number and the Prime Minister agreed to the lowest double digit. This is a pattern, say former US officials, that goes back to Netanyahu's previous tenure in office when at one point President Clinton asked for a cutback "in the teens" and got 13%] Despite the difficulty dealing with Netanyahu, some US officials admit privately that President Obama has underestimated the need to reassure the average Israeli. As one key US official put it last week after the Israeli and US leaders met at the White House, "We need to do better in showing the Israelis that our deep, fundamental bi-lateral relationship has not and will not change." However, some analysts say the President's highly analytical approach has impeded the implementation of policies he believes are in both US and Israeli interest. Moreover, it has helped to accelerate the Israeli public shift to the right. "By including Jerusalem in the debate over settlements," says one analyst, "The Administration is making the average Israeli less likely to be accommodating." Unlike in the past, when Israeli leaders tangled with their foremost ally, Prime Minister Netanyahu does not appear to be weakened. Instead it is the left in Israeli, note a number of analysts, that is being marginalized. As one Israeli put it recently "They [the Administration] won't get [Opposition leader] Tzipi Livni by taking a hard line on Jerusalem. It is more likely they will find her in a Netanyahu-led government." Jerusalem is also critical of the Administration's outreach to the new liberal Jewish lobby known as "J Street" National Security Advisor Jones addressed the group on October 31. Some in the Israeli government are known to believe that his address was an attempt at pressure. And his promise to return to speak to the group "year after year" has elicited the response that J Street likely will not be around for long. But even veteran US officials took umbrage at some of Jones' remarks to the group. One State Department official singled out his reference to the Israeli-Palestinian problem as the "epicenter" of troubles in the Middle East. Deriding this concept, this official asked rhetorically, "Would solving the Palestinian problem help in North Africa, bring good government to Egypt and so on?" For some veteran US analysts, Jones' foray in domestic American Jewish politics is another example of him being a bad fit for the job. "He is a week reed," says one official who has worked closely from time-to-time with Jones. This official also bemoans the lack of executive experience among the Administration's top foreign policy makers. With the President, Vice President and Secretary of State all coming from the Senate, only Defense Secretary Gates, notes this official, has the requisite Executive experience. As a result, this analyst concludes, "The foreign policy team has wasted its political capital." One area where the foreign policy team appears united, if not any more effective, is on the question of dealing with Iran. With the leading powers scheduled to meet in Brussels, the question now being raised within the Administration is how to handle what is being called the "pressure track" on Iran. With few illusions about China and Russia going along with a strong UN Security Council resolution, officials are debating the wisdom of securing a weak one that would serve, in one observer's words as a "coat hanger" for tougher measures by the US and like minded states. The French and British are actually ahead of the US in planning for tough economic sanctions. Japan, despite its new government, has not given any indication that it will deviate from supporting a tough sanctions regime. Ideas being bruited about include a total arms embargo and both an end to new investments in Iran's gas and oil sector as well as a divestment of existing assets. What the Administration does not want is interference from the Congress. Yet, Capitol Hill insiders say that the House is likely to pass a sanctions bill by the end of the year, with the Senate following early in 2010. However, with both Houses controlled by Democrats, there is no desire to embarrass the President. So, a conference that would need to be convened to sort out the differences between the two bills lies well into the future. More likely to come sooner are signs from Israel about how long it is willing to wait for the international community to bring a halt to Iran's unfettered nuclear development program. There are many views about Israeli action, should sanctions prove ineffective. Some veteran observers of Prime Minister Netanyahu are convinced that he will act militarily, if other options fail. As one former US official puts it, "The Israelis know that single-handedly they cannot do more than temporarily delay Iran's nuclear program." So, in his view, an Israeli attack would be designed "to force an international crisis" that could lead to effective international pressure against Iran. US officials do not discount this scenario. As one put it recently, "There is no way Bibi [Netanyahu] won't do something." And most analysts agree that unilateral Israeli military action against Iran would have consequences both within the region and in the international community. One certain action, says a well- informed source, would be the resignation of Defense Secretary Gates, who, according to this source, has made it clear that he would publicly resign should the US give a green light to an Israeli attack."

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