Obama Delivers The Surge

| December 2, 2009

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Tonight in an address to the nation from the US Military Academy at West Point, NY, the President finally disclosed his long suffering decision on General McChrystal’s troop surge for Afghanistan. The theatrics surrounding this decision have at times bordered on comical, and at long last the president has committed to supplying most of the forces for the “Medium Risk” approach requested by the commanders in the field.

The plan is to bring 30,000 or so additional forces into Afghanistan in the next 5 months. This is 75% of the amount requested by the generals. In an October 13th article in the Washington Post; the Pentagon with the Obama administration’s blessings, is reported to have staged over 13,000 non front-line forces to Afghanistan beginning this past summer, essentially hiding the size of the surge. Largely this has been done to pacify his loony left supporters.

The core of the surge will likely be 2 battalions of combat forces, one battalion each of Marines and Army. Expect the Marines to be given the dirty work in around around the southern city of Kandahar and Helmand provence, and the Army to take the long hard grind of securing the eastern frontier and stemming the flow of men and weapons in from Pakistan’s western tribal areas.

While the public decision and announcement has been carefully orchestrated to help channel the public reaction (especially on the left), the preparations for the surge have been underway since April of 2009. The above cited 13,000 troops perform support, administration and maintenance tasks for combat forces. This includes combat and civil engineering units, medical and hospital personnel, intelligence specialists and military police and security units. In other words, the support infrastructure has been slowly put in place during 2009, with the final announcement of 30,000 or so combat forces being the finishing touch.

Reports in the press dutifully remark at the “dramatic pace” of the deployment. This is pure political drama, as the preparations have been in place for some time. In fact, most of the units being deployed have known for several months that they were headed for Afghanistan, and have been undergoing intensive training at locations such as Fort Irwin and Camp Pendleton in California. Coupled with this surge of US combat forces, there will be increased commitments from NATO, and not just from the non-fighting countries, but from the hard warriors of the UK, Canada and Poland.

In reality the timing of the surge is as much about the calendar as it is about politics. Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001, the Taliban tend to wind down operations during the fall and winter months. It is simply too cold and hostile and environment to conduct other than background insurgent operations at a low level, such as IEDs and vehicle bombing of civilian areas. This seasonal slowdown provides a natural and handy window to transport and acclimate units into the harsh, high altitude conditions of the country. look for the surge combat forces to be in Afghanistan not later than late March, in time to train in-country in the cold, thin air. Once acclimatized, they will be forward based to the Afghan eastern and southern frontier for combat operations starting in the spring.

Even with the increased force levels, the President is in a very difficult situation. The Taliban and their imported Arab jihad goons know that in a square fight with US units, they are instant martyrs. Rather than facing them openly in the field of battle, the Taliban will continue to fight an insurgent strategy. Their plan is to wear down the Americans through attrition both kinetic and political. By drawing them into protracted battles in village areas (where they are more likely to find friendly locals) they increase the chances of causing the US to use their superior firepower in a situation where there are mass civilian casualties. Make no mistake, the Taliban’s desired end game looks like a replay of the fall of Saigon.

Without a change in the rules of engagement, and a willingness to hunt and kill the Taliban, house to house if needed, the US is in a precarious position. With Pakistan unable to stop the flow of arms and men into the eastern Afghan provinces, the Taliban are willing to fight down to the last Saudi martyr.

Last but certainly not least is the thorny issue of the declared summer of 2011 withdrawal date. As with the delay on announcing the surge (which was just window dressing), this was largely to provide political cover for the president. In conversations with military leaders, that date will arrive and victory will be declared, even if they are still busy stomping the daylights out of the Taliban. As one clever military officer relayed “There was no promise on the rate of the draw down, just the start date”.

To avoid the trap and seize the initiate, this rookie President, whose political base won’t let him embrace the enemy must allow his generals to surprise the enemy starting in the next few months. They must take the fight to them with overwhelming numbers and “over the top” violence, in spite of the uproar it will cause among the so called “Arab street” and the democratic fringe. Superior strength and the demonstrated ability to use it will be respected., weak dithering and worrying over collateral damage will quickly invite defeat.

By stepping up and committing to the surge, President Obama has taken ownership of this war. Win or lose, he has reluctantly, at long last, acted as commander and chief.

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Category: Geopolitics, Main, Military, Obama Administration

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

Comments (1)

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  1. Scho Man says:

    Yes Barry stepped up to send more troops in, insufficent to the request of the leadership in the feild, and tehn gave the “bad guys” info on when they would be comming home.