McChrystal, Petraeus and the Allied Strategy in Afghanistan

At the end of June, 2010, diverse analyses appeared in the written press, that brings over the possible changes that might happen in the direction of the war in Afghanistan, on the occasion of the substitution of the general in command McChrystal by the more notorius general Petraeus. The above possibility would exist if it was a question of a company, which manager or first executive had been fired. But not, it is a question of the substitution of the general in chief of a theater of operations.

The Definition of the Military Strategy for Afghanistan.

It is elaborated by the Joint Chiefs’ of High Staff (the Pentagon) and is approved by Mr. Obama. Corresponding, then, to the general in chief to develop it with his operational strategy. Where already it has a few limits his autonomy, to stamp his way and his stamp. The general of the theater of operations is a great manager, a high managerial command, of the immense means that the USA and his allies, jointed in the ISAF, put to disposition to reach the goals of the war.

The total strategy raised by the USA can be summarized in obtaining the defeat of the Taliban and the extirpation of Al-Qaeda’s extensions in Afghanistan. And in the progressive incorporation of the Afghans to the labors of public order and against insurgency, possessing a government increasingly strengthened, respected and obeyed, capable of attracting the least radical insurgency to the democracy rules. All this, intermingled with an economic support for the reconstruction, the public health, the people education and the civil infrastructures. But that reaches from the provision of the military means to the delivery of bribes, donations, incentives and sinecures to certain fighters, in order that they leave the weapons, and to civilians, in order that they facilitate information or collaborate in the multiple necessary tasks. The famous strategy against insurgency of «gaining the hearts and the minds» of the native peasantry, which dates back to the intervention in South Vietnam in the 60s, assumes in this triple aim.

The Substitution and the Loss of a Commander in chief in Operations. They had Tired and Bored up to the eyebrows the old good Stanley.

Let’s see two cases, similar but not identical, in which the loss of the commander in chief turns out to be irreparable. Sometimes the military commander constitutes a critical strategic vulnerability of his armed people, at hand of his enemies. This was the case skilfully handled by the Spaniards in the 16th century during the conquest of America. It was a question of the capture or the death of the great chief or «emperor» of the indigenous coalitions in the big countries to colonizing: Montezuma, Atahualpa. And that was possible because the «great adorned with feathers» was presiding his army in combat. This was giving a devastating blow, though temporal, at the indigenous forces. Because once turned into hostage the symbolic representation of a chief of this type was plummeting. Since the social vitality of the collectivity to which he was directing, was now demanding his renovation, as if he had died.

We have also the cases of great political military commanders, as Alejandro, Gustavo Adolfo or Napoleon. They were incorporating in them selves the essence and the virtues of a whole military style and of a political regime. That were radiating permanently to their peoples, galvanizing them for a common task of historical transcendence. His disappearance in operations had been fatal for their collective interests. As it happened in case of Sweden, with the death in combat on November 6, 1632, of his king Gustavo II Adolfo in Lützen’s battle.

Stanley McChrystal’s case was different. He was only an emphasized military man inside a professional, enormous, diversified, technical and modern army. As already he had almost 30 years of service, nearly the retirement, certain luxuries could be allowed. He was tired of interferences from the court politicians of Washington in his «way» (his kingdom was the operational strategy) of commanding the war and in the cuts that they were imposing on him to his requests of means to attend a long, unpopular and versatile war. His crime was to publicly call, in a published interview, «wimps» to some of these politicians of the rope of the “presi”, with whom it ran up in his honest way. The name defines a weak, coward, irresolute and ineffective person for the matters. His aggravating circumstances were the premeditation and the mockery that were exhibiting in the magazine.

The Coalition that General Petraeus gets.

In Afghanistan are present military forces from approximately 46 countries. Some of them are dedicated to support, garrison and rear tasks. As being a great coalition, without subordinating to it any of the interests that to each country dictate his needs and his political commitments, the coincidences between the allies are partial, have solutions of continuity and are unstable through time. This intrinsic fragility of the coalition, is born of that almost all the allies do not practice State policies. It is necessary to indicate that this owes largely to that there is not a clear perception of the Afghan problem. Not of his direct or indirect, immediate or distant nearness, to the national respective interests.

The Dutches, with approximately 2 thousand soldiers in Uruzgan’s province, at the north of that of Kandahar, have confirmed his march from Afghanistan in August of this year. By 2012 also there want to go away other 1550 Australians, which garrison this province. It is supposed that this multinational «brigade» will be replaced with efficiency with American, and especially, Afghans forces. In the province of Kandahar, the old fief of mulah Omar and the first national quarry of the Taliban, there are more than 2800 Canadian troops, joined with British and American forces. It is one of the first «fighting fronts» against the country insurgency, together with Kandahar and the eastern afghan provinces. The Canadians will move back from Afghanistan between July and December, 2011. They remain the British and the Americans.

And, which is the «vital path» (or curriculum vitae) of the British in this conflict? Of the warlike fervor of these «European technologically modern soldiers», give faith the operations carried out for 8 years in the Pashtun province of Helmand, at the south of the country. After the war of 2001, which ended with the medieval radical intransigent regime of the Taliban, around Lashkar Gal, capital of the province, approximately 8 thousand British soldiers established permanently, successively relieved by their replacements in «tours of duty». This powerful quota of professional experienced soldiers was unable in almost 8 years to fight the opium culture in Helmand. Nor to appease the province, for the effective implantation in her of the government of Kabul.

To finally achieve these goals, apparently very difficult to realize, on Friday, February 12, began the Moshtarak (United) operation in Marjah’s region, at approximately 40 km from Lashkar Gal, by approximately 15 thousand allied soldiers, from the NATO and Afghans. That had to go demonstrating that all the efforts and the money spent in the formation of his National forces, have not squandered wretchedly. The Taliban, a light irregular infantry, without aviation, with a pedestrian and insufficient logistics and without artillery, were beaten and removed from his combat positions in Marjah, dispersing finally to the bordering provinces, largely. To extend the information, see our article «Marjah’s Battle» in this Blog. Nevertheless, already the out-standing journalists (this is better than «fixed») in Afghanistan warn us, that the green outbreaks of the insurgency are appearing, as vigorous and firm renews, around Marjah and Nad Ali areas of Helmand province.

Finally, the Americans have indicated the July 1, 2011 as a deadline to initiate the retreat of his deployment. They are approximately 94 thousand soldiers in these moments and will reach 98 thousand at the end of the summer. They are spread through the whole Afghan territory, as a framework that supports and stimulates the general effort of war against insurgency and al-Qaeda. By then it is supposed that they will be enlisted, trained and equipped near 400 thousand Afghans joined the forces of Police, some regional militias and the Afghan National Army. Will they be motivated also to defend an inorganic western democracy? For the present time, the tayicos and the hazaras form most of the actual security forces of Afghanistan: there are approximately 100 thousand policemen and approximately 90 thousand native soldiers, with variable degrees of motivation, loyalty and training. In the Pashtun districts there are in general no enrollments to the national army nor to the Afghan police. A Pashtun liberation war is outlined this way inside an oppressive or neglected country towards them.