The Madness of American Foreign Policy, II
June 13, 2013
Here are some more passages from Little America by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
“As the president had been considering his drawdown options, the CIA had finished an assessment of each of Afghanistan’s nearly four hundred districts. Agency analysts had conducted similar studies every six months or so since 2007. The last one had been done in October 2010, and the new evaluation measured changes in security, government presence, and development since then. Each district was graded on a four-level scale, ranging from government controlled to Taliban controlled. The assessment was based on statistics…as well as input from the CIA’S network of Afghan informants. White House officials regarded it as the ‘the report card on the surge.’
“The CIA’s conclusion was that Afghanistan was ‘trending to stalemate.’ The report, which was written before Petraeus took over as the agency’s director, showed that the gains in the south …were offset by losses to the Taliban in the eastern and northern parts of the country. ‘There has been no net progress,’ I was told by a senior White House official who had read the assessment. In asking for the surge, military commanders had asserted that security improvements in the districts where the new troops were initially concentrated would be like inkblots that would expand across the map of Afghanistan. That hadn’t occurred. ‘Where we went, we made a difference. But not next door….The surge worked locally, but it did not have the nationwide effect that was advertised.’
“Senior military officials were outraged at the contention that Afghanistan was headed for a stalemate. They insisted that the CIA had overstated the impact of Taliban gains in the north and east and underemphasized security improvements in the south. The White House official said he and his colleagues were unconvinced by the military’s objections. The CIA…had used the same methodology in earlier reports that the military had championed in arguing for more troops in 2009….
“I asked [this official] whether Obama had read the CIA assessment before making his decision.
“No, he said. ‘We didn’t want it.’
“Although many in the White House believed the surge had been a failure, he said, the president’s top advisers ‘didn’t want a counternarrative inside the U.S. government that says it wasn’t successful.’
“”The president’s announcement needed to be made on the basis of ‘the surge worked,’ he added, ‘and therefore we can bring 33,000 troops home as I promised the American people.’” [Pp. 326-28]
In other words, the president did not really care if the surge was working or not. He was committed to bringing those troops home. And why not? Consider the following:
“The world had changed since [Obama] had announced the 30,000 troop deployment on December 1, 2009. With the nation in the throes of economic stagnation, the price tag of the war had become a major factor in this thinking. It cost $1 million to keep one American soldier in Afghanistan for a year. That meant that the annual bill for the war was more than $100 billion. Was achieving a marginally less bad outcome in Afghanistan worth the expense?” [p. 324]