Or as Quqnoos, an Afghan news service, reported:
A senior US official Friday said “the US has no intention of leaving Afghanistan in the near future, certainly not in 2011”
Gen James Jones, US President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, said what Mr Obama actually said was: “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”
“It’s very important to use the right words where this is concerned,” he told journalists. “The words ‘US troops will leave in 2011’ are inaccurate.”
I’m not sure how this synchs with the “insider” account in the New York Times portraying Obama as insisting on a timeline for an exit from Afghanistan, but it certainly seems to back up Col Pat Lang’s analysis that Obama got “rolled.”
Petraeus, McChrystal and Mullen must be very pleased with themselves today. This generation of flag officers has now reached a level of power in which they completely dominated this policy decision making process and got everything that they wanted.
The numbers? The Army general staff is already “fudging” the numbers. It is easy to hold people in various “paper” categories in which they seem to not be “in country” but really are there. There will be a lot more of that. In the end the actual number of Army soldiers in Afghanistan will come close to McChrystal’s original request.
The withdrawal? The generals reckon that they can “manage” that decision as they did this one.
Basically, the generals and their allies “rolled” Obama on this one. They reckon that they can do it again, because he is weak willed and they are not.
Tom Englehardt, who has more about the numbers “fudging” sums it all up when he writes:
You may not think so, but on Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in his first prime-time presidential address to the nation, Barack Obama surrendered. It may not have looked like that: there were no surrender documents; he wasn’t on the deck of the USS Missouri; he never bowed his head. Still, from today on, think of him not as the commander-in-chief, but as the commanded-in-chief.
Meanwhile, many Afghans are not cheering the coming surge. Anand Gopal reports that the very “local leaders” the surge is designed to engage see the surge itself as a big problem :
Many tribal heads and local leaders from the Pashtun south and east — the heartland of the Taliban insurgency — have gone further, calling for troop withdrawals. “I don’t think we will be able to solve our problems with military force,” said Muhammad Qasim, a tribal elder from the southern province of Kandahar. “We can solve them by providing jobs and development and by using local leaders to negotiate with the Taliban.”
Such views could pose a challenge to the U.S., which would require the support of the Pashtun population in order to succeed. “People are starting to view the Americans as occupiers, and in that context more troops would be risky,” said Hanif Shah Hosseini, a lawmaker from Khost province.
While McChrystal claims that more US troops will provide the needed aid to local leaders to reduce violence, they don’t agree:
Officials cite night raids, civilian casualties and lack of development as reasons why the standing of U.S. troops has lowered in some Afghans’ eyes. When the U.S. forces enter an area, the levels of violence generally increase, causing anger and dissatisfaction among the local population…
“If new troops come and are stationed in civilian areas, when they draw Taliban attacks civilians will end up being killed,” said Gulbadshah Majidi, a lawmaker and close associate of Mr. Karzai. “This will only increase the distance between Afghans and their government.”…
“If we get more troops, there will be more bloodshed,” said Noor Muhammad, a shopkeeper. “Only Afghans themselves can solve this problem.”can solve this problem.”
And along the Kandahar road we hear:
Afghans wanting to travel between the capital and the second city must run a gauntlet of robbers, Taliban ambushes and jumpy American convoys, which are heavily armed and ready to open fire.
… Karim, a lanky Pashtun from Ghazni – with only one name, like many Afghans – would rather not risk his life driving the highway for £75 a month, but he has little choice if he wants to feed his eight children…
The 42-year-old’s coach had been held up by robbers who went through his passengers’ pockets at gunpoint, and searched by Taliban patrols looking for government workers.
But he reserved his greatest anger for the American convoys that were supposed to be securing the road. The six-hour drive to Kandahar often took four times as long because his bus became stuck behind lumbering mine-proof lorries and was frequently pulled to the side of the road for searches.
Any attempt to overtake US troops or get too close was answered by a rock flung by a turret gunner at his windscreen, or by a shot ricocheting off the road.
“The main trouble is with the Americans,” he said. “If they have come to help us they are most welcome, but if they are just here to hold us up and cause trouble, we are not happy.”
He was enthusiastically supported by Ismatullah, another driver who pointed out a bullet hole in his windscreen covered by a sticker. “Unfortunately there is fighting between the Americans and the Taliban along the road,” he said.
“The Americans don’t care if you are a civilian or a driver, they just shoot. If an American gets hurt then they shoot everyone.”
How horribly familiar.