The Pentagon is threatening the United Kingdom with serious consequences if British troops starting pulling out of Afghanistan ahead of a U.S.-approved schedule. The same Pentagon generals are resisting pressure in America for a major troop withdrawal promised by President Obama beginning in July. The strong-armed lobbying efforts were reported in The Daily Telegraph last week (May 16, 2011), and more generally in Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars.
A recent push by U.K. prime minister for a rapid withdrawal is causing “alarm” among American generals and could “strain” the special relation between the two governments. The Pentagon hopes that President Obama’s trip to London this week will put the Brits in line. “Sources said that U.S. generals have delivered a blunt warning to their British counterparts about the impact of an early U.K. withdrawal,” the London paper reported. There are 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan despite large public majorities against the war and persistent mass demonstrations by the London-based Stop the War Coalition.
In Washington, the generals are proposing that Obama’s July troop withdrawal announcement be limited to 10,000 troops over a two-year period, the lowest option now before the president (see PJRC Troop Withdrawal chart).
According to Woodward’s earlier book, the president complained during his 2009 Afghanistan Review that the Pentagon was “really cooking the thing in the direction that they wanted.” (p. 280) The generals were pushing to keep 100,000 troops in Afghanistan for years. “They are not going to give me a choice,” the president said, before signing off on a 33,000-troop increase, known as Obama’s surge, which the Pentagon apparently boxed him into. The Pentagon proposal was supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the president decided to sign off. According to the Pentagon’s numbers, there would be more troops in Afghanistan in 2016 than when Obama took office, a figure that shocked Obama’s civilian advisers.
An “alternative” plan was drawn up by the Pentagon on Nov. 14, 2009, at Obama’s insistence, with a graph starting at a baseline of 68,000 troops in November 2009, rising to over 100,000 during the surge through this July, then slowly falling through 2012 but not below the 68,000 baseline until July 2013, and leveling off at 38,000 through 2015. According to the chart, American troop reductions were known as a “thinning” toward the “transition to Afghan security” by 2016. There were four key assumptions listed on the chart, however, which rendered even this gradual scenario unlikely: first, the Taliban would be “degraded” to a point where the threat could be managed by the Afghan security forces; second, the Afghan security forces would be capable of securing ground gained by the Americans; third, Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan would be eliminated or severely degraded; and fourth, the Kabul government would be stable enough to government the country as a whole. (p.283) None of those criteria are likely to be met any time soon.
All this was well known to Gen. David Petraeus, who said privately, “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually. Iraq is a bit of a metaphor for this...You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kid’s lives.” (p.333)
House Republicans Seek Long War Authorization for Executive
The National Defense Authorization Act before Congress includes the broadest possible blanket authorization for the Long War, by declaring war against any “associated forces” engaged in global terrorism and justifying permanent incarceration until “the termination of hostilities.” It is uncertain how many Democrats will stand up against the limitless authorization. For information contact Win Without War.