McChrystal’s Afghanistan “Confidence Tour” for Visiting Senators & Media

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levin military.jpg
Senator Carl Levin, just back from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan which he took with Senator Al Franken, sees significant gains in America’s position in Afghanistan.
But how can that be? The only substantive differences between the highly bleak assessments of the Afghan scene in leaked reports authored by Commanding General Stanley McChrystal and US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry on the one hand and Senator Levin’s very rosy assessment of progress offered this week are Barack Obama’s West Point speech and the deployment of a 1500 person Marine infantry unit and approximately 500 or so other troops from other corners of the DoD.
On Wednesday, January 13th, Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin held a media conference call from the Dubai International Airport. It was about 10:30 at night for him — and the Committee Chairman walked us through his general impressions of things in Afghanistan. He didn’t speak for Senator Al Franken, who was not to the best of my knowledge on the call.
Levin reported that he and Franken had spent three days in the region — the first day in Pakistan followed by two days in Afghanistan. He said that they had met with General Stanley McChrystal, General William Caldwell and General David Rodriquez — who was the operations commander on the ground, according to Levin.
Levin said “we went to places away from Kabul today. We saw real partnering with Afghans.” He continued, “it’s reassuring to see that happening….”
Senator Levin stated that he was in Afghanistan last September and that, compared to then, he had seen “a significant increase in optimism about possibility of success in Afghanistan.”
He did add that the situation is “still very complicated, still far from certainty of success.”
He said that the confidence level of our leaders in the region and of Afghan leaders that we are “making progress” is higher today.
Levin continued, “Our counterinsurgency strategy may be taking hold. We are offering terms of security better than the false security offered by the Taliban.”
Senator Levin said that key to success of our current strategy is that there is close partnering or coalition troops and the Afghan army. Levin said that he believes that Afghans need to step up and take responsibility for their own security if this effort is going to succeed — and he saw evidence of that happening.
Levin emphasized the critical task of training Afghan troops, and that there are not enough trainers there to deal with the growing numbers of Afghan recruits.
General Caldwell reported to Levin that President Obama’s West Point speech and the mention of July 2011 as a drawdown point when a reduction in US forces would begin, had a “very positive effect on the Afghan leadership.” He said that after that speech, the Afghan political and military leadership was focusing its energies on building a larger base of recruits for their armies. Caldwell, according to Levin, reported that the “numbers of recruits were stunning” in the aftermath of Obama setting the July 2011 date.
Caldwell also said that they couldn’t handle the surge of recruits in the days after Obama’s speech.
According to Levin regarding the large surge in recruits, “the reason that that happened was that Afghan leaders realized that President Obama was serious and meant business — that commitment here [in Afghanistan] is not open ended and that we would be decreasing troops in July 2011.”
According to Levin, the only shortfall in the area of partnering is not the lack of American combat troops to partner with afghans in the field, but rather the number of trainers. He said that there are “more than enough troops to handle the true shoulder to shoulder partnering.” He continued, “What we learned, to our dismay, is that in the early training, during the first eight weeks, in the preliminary kind of skills given to recruits — there is a significant short fall in personnel to train.”
Levin reported that we have only 37% of the trainers that we need. He said that ISAF coalition partners should really step up to plate and offer more trainers, particularly the partners who are not sending combat troops.
AFTER SENATOR LEVIN’S OPENING REMARKS, I asked him how his rather positive assessment could be true.
What accounted for the dramatic change in circumstances between Senator Levin’s quite bright portrayal of trends in Afghanistan — as offered in part to them by General Stanley McChrystal’s tour guides — and McChrystal’s own quite bleak read just a few months ago?
I noted that there had been virtually no new troop increases yet and that the only thing that had really happened was President Obama’s West Point declaration of his new AfPak strategy.
Levin stated that there had been some increase in troops, and he was correct. I called the Department of Defense and learned that a 1,500 person Marine Infantry unit had deployed shortly after the President’s speech and that about 500 others from “here and there” had gone in by this point. About 1,000 more are expected over the next month, according to Department of Defense sources.
But even then, having 2,000 of the 40,000 troops requested and the 30,000 agreed to by Obama could not be enough to swing “hope” and “security deliverables” so dramatically — unless increased troops are actually irrelevant to the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan.
In response to my question, Senator Levin did state that he opposed the deployment of more combat troops to Afghanistan and felt that they were not necessary.
But he continued that what seemed important to the Afghan leadership was Obama showing a commitment to Afghanistan. He reiterated again that he would not have sent more combat troops, that there are “a number of ways of showing commitment — better equipment, etc.” He said that the best way to demonstrate commitment was to “show Afghans that the security they crave can be provided by their own security services.”
Levin repeated himself yet again that he would have done things differently than the President but “that commitment was important to be made — had an impact positively on the Afghan people.”
Levin essentially said that this is about confidence — building confidence of the Afghan citizenry in their own government and military and security services, and regardless of the US troops committee, what Obama had kickstarted was the beginning of that rebuilt confidence.
I respect Senator Levin for sharing his thoughts and for frequently showing great leadership in matters of national security policy, but he must scratch his own head, as I am, wondering if that this is all about confidence building (con game or not?), how could the picture he was presented by the McChrystal-Caldwell-Rodriguez team on this trip be so at odds with the picture they painted during the President’s strategic review process?
It can’t all be about an Obama-led “confidence multiplier.”
If it is, then the question really is why not stick with the oratory and current levels of deployment and forego the 30,000 additional troops and extra $33 billion a year price tag?
– Steve Clemons

Comments

11 comments on “McChrystal’s Afghanistan “Confidence Tour” for Visiting Senators & Media

  1. Carroll says:

    “building confidence”? Hahahah..oh my gawd.
    Levin and all his fellow travelers have Munchenhausens Syndrome by Proxy.
    They muck around and screw in other countries, making them sick, so they can then don their master of universe tutus and prance around the world basking in all the attention they think they are getting for being the powerful, much put upon super saviors.
    They better start worrying about the fact that few Americans have any “confidence” in America.
    BWTTGASO

    Reply

  2. samuelburke says:

    Democrats need to be busy ending wars started mostly by
    imperialists who do not respect the rights of other nations nor of
    others who differ from them.

    Reply

  3. JamesL says:

    Thanks POA for 8:36.

    Reply

  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The word “success”, in DC, doesn’t mean anything anymore. Its a useful slogan to put lipstick on a pig.
    Its fairly disheartening to see these bastards in DC telling us to “look over here” as they amp up a new clusterfuck in Afghanistan, while the old clusterfuck in Iraq is imploding.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/16/MNV51BIUFJ.DTL&type=politics
    Angry Sunnis to boycott Iraq elections
    Anthony Shadid, New York Times
    Saturday, January 16, 2010
    (01-16) 04:00 PST Baghdad – –
    A knot of young men stood Friday outside the Umm al-Qura Mosque, once a nest of insurgent fervor where a year of relative tranquillity has softened the jagged edges of nearby bullet holes. They were angry, frustrated and quick to punctuate their denunciations of a decision to bar scores of Sunni candidates from Iraqi elections in March with a single word: sharaiyya, Arabic for legitimacy.
    ——————————————————————————–
    More News
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    Seismic retrofit mandate set to move forward 01.17.10
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    Union critic assesses governor’s race 01.17.10
    ——————————————————————————–
    “We’re not going to boycott because our candidates were disqualified,” said one of them, Suheil Najm. “We’ll boycott because the elections won’t be legitimate.”
    The decision to disqualify nearly 500 candidates, many of them Sunni Muslim, plunged Iraqi politics into turmoil Friday. Leading candidates vowed a boycott of the vote, perhaps the most important since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Protests were threatened, and anger rippled through Iraq’s Sunni communities.
    But beyond the din of recriminations, the decision posed an even greater challenge to Iraq’s nascent body politic, lawmakers, officials and residents say. A hard-won legitimacy of Iraq’s political process that had finally turned elections into an arena of contest for virtually all factions here looked dangerously tattered on Friday, they said.
    The disqualifications, ratified Thursday, were the latest turn in a mercurial process that even rivals of the barred candidates acknowledge has been shrouded in secrecy and characterized by unpredictability.

    Reply

  5. Mr.Murder says:

    “Success” will look something like the contras.
    Best dust off those School of the Americas training manuals, the ones that lack rules, in the section usually reserved for a rulebook.

    Reply

  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “BTW,December saw ZERO American casualties in Iraq, which got no notice in media”
    Must be the “success of the surge”, eh?
    (Of course, in Nadine’s perverted sense of human worth, the following listed deaths don’t count)
    http://icasualties.org/Iraq/iraqideaths.aspx?hndPeriod=Dec-09
    12/30/09 KHALIS – A roadside bomb killed seven Iraqi pilgrims returning from a major Shi’ite Muslim religious festival and wounded 25 others in Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/30/09 MOSUL – Gunmen shot dead a civilian in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
    12/30/09 RAMADI – Twin suicide bombs killed at least 24 people, including police officers, and wounded over 100 others in an attack targeting the governor of Anbar province and other senior officials in Ramadi
    12/29/09 GARMA – Gunmen killed four members of a local, government-backed guard unit in the town of Garma, 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police said. The men were standing watch at a checkpoint when the attack occurred.
    12/27/09 BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a minibus killed one civilian and wounded four in the Mansour district of central Baghdad, police said.
    12/27/09 KIRKUK – Gunmen in a car shot dead a member of a local pro- government militia outside his house, southwest of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/27/09 TUZ KHURMATO – A roadside bomb killed four pilgrims and wounded 28 others taking part in the Shi’ite Muslim religious festival of Ashura in Tuz Khurmato, 170 km (105 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/26/09 BAGHDAD – A bomb killed a tribal leader near his home in Abu Ghraib, in Baghdad’s western outskirts, police said.
    12/26/09 BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed two pilgrims taking part in the Shi’ite Muslim religious festival of Ashura in the New Baghdad district of the Iraqi capital, police said. Eight other pilgrims were wounded.
    12/26/09 FALLUJA – A bomb killed a lieutenant colonel from the Iraqi police outside his home in central Falluja, 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.
    12/25/09 BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed three Shi’ite pilgrims taking part in the religious festival of Ashura in the Kamaliya district of east Baghdad, police said.
    12/25/09 KIRKUK – Gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed an electricity ministry employee in southwest Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, on Thursday night, police said.
    12/25/09 MOSUL – An attacker threw an explosive at an Iraqi police patrol, killing one civilian and wounding another in central Mosul, police said.
    12/25/09 MOSUL – Gunmen killed three men doing temporary work as census takers on Thursday in western Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/25/09 MOSUL -Police found the body of a woman who had been suffocated to death in western Mosul, police said.
    12/25/09 RABIA – A suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives and killed one soldier from the minority Kurds’ Peshmerga military and wounded 14 others near Iraq’s border with Syria in northern Nineveh provinceDemocratic Party (KDP).
    12/25/09 SHIRQAT – Gunmen opened fire on a local pro-government militia checkpoint on Thursday night, killing one and wounding two others in Shirqat, 300 km (190 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/24/09 BAGHDAD – A motorbike laden with explosives killed one Shi’ite pilgrim and wounded five others on Wednesday evening in the al-Ilaam district of southern Baghdad, police said.
    12/24/09 KERBALA – A roadside bomb went off near a restaurant, killing one person and wounding five others, including two religious pilgrims in a small town near the holy city of Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad, police said.
    12/24/09 MOSUL – Gunmen shot and killed a man near his home in northern Mosul, police said.
    12/24/09 MOSUL – Gunmen shot dead a Christian man and wounded another man in Mosul, 390 km (240 mile) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/23/09 BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a minibus killed one person and wounded three in the Kadhimiya district of northwest Baghdad, police said.
    12/23/09 BAGHDAD – A bomb hidden in a plastic bag killed one Shi’ite pilgrim and wounded four others when it exploded near a tent used by pilgrims in Baghdad’s central Karrada district, police said.
    12/23/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen shot dead Brigadier General Riyadh Abdulmajeed in front of his house on Tuesday in the Ghazaliya district of west Baghdad, police said.
    12/23/09 BAGHDAD – The toll from a roadside bomb in the Shaab district of northern Baghdad rose to three killed and 28 wounded, police said. The bomb targeted Shi’ite pilgrims
    12/23/09 MOSUL – A wooden cart exploded inside a garage behind a church, killing two people and wounding five in central Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/23/09 MOSUL – Gunmen killed a retired Iraqi army officer in front of his house in western Mosul, police said.
    12/22/09 BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a car killed the driver in central Baghdad on Monday, police said.
    12/22/09 MOSUL – Gunmen killed a civilian on Monday evening in western Mosul, police said
    12/22/09 MOSUL – Gunmen killed an off-duty Iraqi soldier at a medical clinic in northern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/22/09 MOSUL – Gunmen stormed the house of an Iraqi soldier, killing him and wounding his brother in western Mosul, police said.
    12/21/09 KIRKUK – Gunmen shot and killed a policeman in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/21/09 KIRKUK – Gunmen shot dead an off-duty member of Kurdish security forces on Sunday evening in Kirkuk, police said.
    12/21/09 MOSUL – Gunmen shot dead a policeman in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/21/09 TAL AFAR – A suicide bomber killed a local leader in Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, also killing another man and wounding seven.
    12/19/09 MOSUL – Gunmen shot dead two off-duty policemen in separate incidents on Saturday in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/18/09 KIRKUK – Police found the bodies of two men with gunshot wounds to the head and chest in southeast Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/18/09 MOSUL – Gunmen in a car shot a man dead in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/17/09 BAGHDAD – A car bomb targeting the convoy of lawmaker Nadeem al-Jabiri killed one civilian and wounded 10, police said. Jabiri was not in the convoy. Baghdad’s security spokesman said no one had been killed.
    12/17/09 MOSUL – A Christian lab assistant was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Mosul, police said.
    12/17/09 MOSUL – Gunmen killed an off-duty policeman on Wednesday in Mosul, police said
    12/17/09 MOSUL – One policeman was killed during a raid on a home in Mosul, police said.
    12/17/09 MOSUL – Unknown gunmen shot a carpenter dead in his workshop in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/16/09 MADAEN – A roadside bomb killed the local leader of a government-backed Sunni militia in Madaen, 30 km (20 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said. The attack also wounded two of the man’s bodyguards.
    12/14/09 BAGHDAD – Three car bombs killed four people and wounded 15 others near Baghdad’s Green Zone district, police said. Security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said no one was killed and that four people were wounded.
    12/13/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen in a car killed an off-duty police officer in the Shalchiya district in central Baghdad on Saturday, police reported.
    12/13/09 MOSUL – A car packed with bombs exploded near an Iraqi army recruiting centre, killing two recruits and wounding 18 people in east Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/12/09 KIRKUK – Three policemen were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb in central Kirkuk, which is located 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/11/09 BAGHDAD – Six people were killed and 21 wounded when a bomb planted in a shop exploded and a subsequent car bomb detonated as police rushed to the scene in Yusufiya, 20 km (12 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Two of the dead were police.
    12/09/09 BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed two people and wounded 11 others in north Baghdad, police reported.
    12/09/09 BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed two people and wounded seven others in Baghdad’s northern district of Adhamiya, police said.
    12/09/09 MAHMUDIYE – A bomb planted on a minibus killed three people and wounded eight in the town of Mahmudiye, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Baghdad, according to police.
    12/09/09 MOSUL – Police said they found the bullet-ridden corpses of two Christian men in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of the capital.
    12/08/09 BAGHDAD – A series car bomb attacks killed at least 112 people and wounded 425 in different areas of Baghdad, officials said, the deadliest attacks in more than six weeks.
    12/08/09 FALLUJA – A bomb planted near a house killed one man and wounded three others in central Falluja, police said.
    12/08/09 FALLUJA – A sticky bomb attached to a car killed two people on Monday night in central Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.
    12/08/09 GARMA – Gunmen shot and wounded a police colonel at his home in the town of Garma, 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police said.
    12/07/09 BAGHDAD – A sticky bomb, or a small explosive that is affixed to vehicles, killed a driver and wounded five others in the Mansour district of west-central Baghdad, police said.
    12/07/09 BAGHDAD – Four students were killed and 25 wounded when a bomb detonated in the playground of a boys’ middle school in the Shi’ite district of Sadr City, police said.
    12/07/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen shot dead five government-backed neighborhood guards, or Sahwa, while they were manning a checkpoint in the northern suburbs of Baghdad, police said.
    12/07/09 KIRKUK – Two Sahwa guards were found dead at a checkpoint in Kirkuk, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad. Police said it was not immediately clear how they had died.
    12/06/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen killed four policemen at a checkpoint in the Abu Ghraib district of the capital, police said.
    12/06/09 KIRKUK – Gunmen travelling in a speeding car shot dead a soldier on his way to work in the city, police said.
    12/06/09 MOSUL – A former policeman was killed by armed men travelling in a speeding car on Saturday in the eastern part of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of the capital, police said.
    12/06/09 MUSSAYAB – A roadside bomb killed two people and wounded four in a residential area of Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
    12/06/09 RASHAD – A roadside bomb killed a government-backed neighbourhood guard and wounded three others when it struck their vehicle in the town of Rashad, near Kirkuk, 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/05/09 KIRKUK – A gunman killed a civilian in southern Kirkuk, police said. No other information was available.
    12/05/09 KIRKUK – Iraqi police found a dead civilian with gunshot wounds in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/04/09 KIRKUK – A gunman killed a civilian in southern Kirkuk, police said. No other information was available.
    12/04/09 KIRKUK – Iraqi police found a dead civilian with gunshot wounds in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
    12/04/09 Tuz Khormatu – Gunmen raided the home of Hazim Akbar, a Turkoman living in Tuz Khormatu district, to the northeast of Tikrit, early Friday. They shot Akbar…Akbar died soon after he reached the hospital.
    12/03/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen entered a cafe and killed a man on Wednesday in the capital’s northern Tobchi district, police said.
    12/03/09 BAGHDAD – Gunmen in a car opened fire and killed an Iraqi solider late on Wednesday as he was manning a checkpoint on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, police said.
    12/01/09 Baghdad – A sticky bomb stuck to a civilian car exploded in Dora killing the driver and injured a passenger around 7 p.m.
    12/01/09 Baghdad – Gunmen stormed a currency exchange office in Abu Ghraib town, west of Baghdad, killing the two owners and a customer.
    Total, Dec ’09 – 287 dead

    Reply

  7. JohnH says:

    Steve’s headline should have read: “McChrystal’s
    Counterinsurgency against the Congress.”

    Reply

  8. nadine says:

    “It can’t all be about an Obama-led “confidence multiplier.”
    If it is, then the question really is why not stick with the oratory and current levels of deployment and forego the 30,000 additional troops and extra $33 billion a year price tag?”
    Hey why stick to current levels at all? Why not pull out entirely to show real seriousness and demand General McCrystal do everything with smoke and mirrors?
    Maybe you can get Harry Reid to declare “The Surge Has Failed. The War is Lost.” again.
    BTW,December saw ZERO American casualties in Iraq, which got no notice in media.
    If Americans temporarily forgot that Democrats cannot be serious about fighting wars, this administration is busy reminding them.

    Reply

  9. DonS says:

    ‘ “Advanced Washingtongue Disfunction”, (AWD), is contagious, and you have definitely caught it. Its primary symptom is an inability to use the terms “lie”, “liar”, or “liars” during the course of a conversation.’, per POA.
    Yeah, but, if Sen Levin wades through Steve’s insistent and tortured attempt at obfuscating his apparent incredulity at the tortured logic and rhetoric coming from the good Senator, well, I don’t think he can miss the point. Steve ain’t buying. And thanks Steve for putting it out there in whatever form you could muster.
    Over years of being here at TWN I’ve overcome my usual cynical attitude toward some jargon, specifically the use of the term “optics” which is one of those terms that allows a sliding scale of usage, from the mild observation to the perjorative expletive. Methinks the memo went out; Afghan optics 101.
    My own version would be declare victory and come home. Of course that’s not in the cards. The guest on Bill Moyers last night (Greg Mortenson) says that in conversation with brass in Afghanistan they don’t hesitate to say military victory ain’t gonna happen; more rhetorical hocus pocus, because you sure know they got the memo. More of the same optics. It’s nice to know that the brass, the administration and the visiting Senators can implement the memo so consistently.
    We’re all convinced. And impressed.
    Speaking of convinced, Sen. Franken has filled in the blank with the appropriate iteration of the appropriate optic. Seems he to is foursquare behind the Obama ‘plan’; with a bit of mind sputtering around the edges:
    http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/senate/81523727.html

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “He did add that the situation is “still very complicated, still far from certainty of success.”"
    And just as soon as they figure out what “success” is, I’m sure they’ll be telling us how close we are to attaining it.
    “Levin continued, “Our counterinsurgency strategy may be taking hold. We are offering terms of security better than the false security offered by the Taliban.”"
    The growers can now plant and harvest with impunity, as heroin prices drop on the street, and availability skyrockets.
    “I respect Senator Levin for sharing his thoughts and for frequently showing great leadership in matters of national security policy, but he must scratch his own head, as I am, wondering if that this is all about confidence building (con game or not?), how could the picture he was presented by the McChrystal-Caldwell-Rodriguez team on this trip be so at odds with the picture they painted during the President’s strategic review process?”
    Well, Steve, it seems that this affliction known as “Advanced Washingtongue Disfunction”, (AWD), is contagious, and you have definitely caught it. Its primary symptom is an inability to use the terms “lie”, “liar”, or “liars” during the course of a conversation.

    Reply

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