How Is McChrystal Doing at Fulfilling His Plan?

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, this isn’t the first time that Stanley McChrystal has been insubordinate. He–or his aides–have mouthed off to the press on two earlier occasions without getting fired.

As Rachel mentions, the first of those was a memo leaked to Bob Woodward just in time to demand more troops. That memo provides an interesting benchmark to assess McChrystal’s own plan.

Troops and Rules of Engagement

The key point of the leak to Woodward, of course, was for more troops. But McChrystal tied that demand to treating Afghans better.

McChrystal makes clear that his call for more forces is predicated on the adoption of a strategy in which troops emphasize protecting Afghans rather than killing insurgents or controlling territory.


The key weakness of ISAF, he says, is that it is not aggressively defending the Afghan population. “Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us — physically and psychologically — from the people we seek to protect. . . . The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves.”


Toward the end of his report, McChrystal revisits his central theme: “Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure.”

As I pointed out yesterday, McChrystal has changed the rules of the engagement with the infantry, which is losing faith precisely because they can’t respond to violence with violence.

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal’s new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. “Bottom line?” says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”

But McChrystal admits in this story that he still demands lots of killing from the special forces, even while he pretends to scold them after they succeed.

Even in his new role as America’s leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep-seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. “You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight,” McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he’ll add, “I’m going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though.” In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over.

This quote–unlike some of the more inflammatory ones in the article, direct from McChrystal–was one of the most disturbing to me. Is the call for fewer casualties just a joke? Just something the grunts have to abide by? Or can the special forces guys just live by their own rules, even though their fuck-ups are the ones that really convince Afghans to hate us?


McChrystal’s memo does warn of the dangers of corruption.

The assessment offers an unsparing critique of the failings of the Afghan government, contending that official corruption is as much of a threat as the insurgency to the mission of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the U.S.-led NATO coalition is widely known.

“The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF’s own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,” McChrystal says.


McChrystal continues: “Afghan social, political, economic, and cultural affairs are complex and poorly understood. ISAF does not sufficiently appreciate the dynamics in local communities, nor how the insurgency, corruption, incompetent officials, power-brokers, and criminality all combine to affect the Afghan population.”

We haven’t solved these. We’ve still got the corrupt Karzai. And money from contracts is still going into the pockets of warlords we oppose.

Detention Facilities

There’s McChrystal’s call to hand off operation of the Afghan detention facilities.

McChrystal outlines a plan to build up the Afghan government’s ability to manage its detention facilities and eventually put all such operations under Afghan control, including the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, which the United States runs.

McChrystal has moved towards handing back the prisons in Afghanistan to the country. Yet, at the same time, DOD is building a big new facility, which curiously would be finished just as the Afghans are supposed to take over the prison.

The U.S. military is getting set to expand its controversial detention camp at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan — just as new reports of a “black jail” inside the facility are surfacing.

In a solicitation issued today, the U.S. military put out a request for a contractor to build three new detention housing units next to the existing facility, known formally as the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan (Bagram is in the southwest corner of Parwan Province). As of last September, 645 prisoners were held there.

The cost of the project — which will include construction of one special housing unit and two detention housing units — is projected to run between $10 million and $25 million. The contractor will have approximately nine months to complete the entire project.

Presumably, these new buildings are in addition to Bagram’s separate and previously clandestine detention facility, revealed by the International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday. Nine former prisoners say they were abused there, according to the BBC.

Timing here is key: The jail is supposed to be handed over to Afghan control of the place, sometimes called “Obama’s Guantanamo,” sometime next year. (Afghan president Hamid Karzai would like tomake the hand-off even earlier.) Afghan and U.S. officials have signed an agreement to hand control of the Parwan facility to the Afghan ministry of defense, and eventually to its ministry of justice. The transfer may help resolve an issue that has caused a fair amount of controversy for the U.S. military.

And someone–whether McChrystal himself or his superiors–floated retaining a special facility under US control in Afghanistan so we’d have some place to abuse prisoners.


But on one point McChrystal covered his ass was right: casualities.

McChrystal warns that in the short run, it “is realistic to expect that Afghan and coalition casualties will increase.”

The number of US casualties has gone up significantly.

Now, I understand we’re only halfway through the big surge period of this plan. I understand some of these things are out of McChrystal’s control. I understand this is a near-impossible task in any case.

I know we won’t get it, but this flap–whether or not McChrystal gets fired–is the ideal time to assess whether McChrystal’s plan was ever realistic. Because it’s not clear it was.

86 replies
  1. Leen says:

    “In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over.”

    Then go in and offer the parent of the person slaughtered by our special forces “$30,ooo and a two sheep” for their lives. Telling.

    EW “This quote–unlike some of the more inflammatory ones in the article, direct from McChrystal–was one of the most disturbing to me. Is the call for fewer casualties just a joke? Just something the grunts have to abide by? Or can the special forces guys just live by their own rules, even though their fuck-ups are the ones that really convince Afghans to hate us?”

    Sure looks like this may be the case since civilian killings has gone up. Very creepy indeed

  2. Leen says:

    I thought Rachel did a bit of spinning herself

    First we did not hear the question that was asked of McChrystal. We heard Rachels interpretation.

    Then we hear McChrystal’s answer to the question that Rachel interpreted instead of playing the full clip
    McChrystal “a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short sighted strategy”

    Rachels immediate spin “The Vice President advocating a short sighted strategy says the Commanding General in the war. In the public on the record”

    A bit of Maddow spin

  3. 1970cs says:

    “mission failure”?, what is the mission?

    9 years in, with the amount of money continually being poured into Afghanistan, an economy for military contractors is being subsidised.

    90% of the world heroin crop still originates from Afghanistan, so there is that mission for somebody.

    Oil and gas pipelines proposed to be built, there is that mission.

    Proximity to Pakistan, where another huge CIA station is being built, with the end game of being involved there is what?


  4. Leen says:

    Democracy now
    Afghan Drug Use Increases

    New figures meanwhile show years of occupation and fighting have left Afghanistan with one of the highest percentages of drug addicts in the world. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says 800,000 Afghan adults now use opium, heroin and other illicit drugs, a percentage of close to seven percent.
    Congressional Probe Confirms US Indirectly Funding Afghan Insurgents with Protection Payoffs

    A congressional investigation has affirmed the findings of a Nation magazine report that revealed the US government is indirectly financing warlords and insurgent forces they’re fighting in Afghanistan. Investigative journalist Aram Roston reported the Pentagon’s civilian contractors in Afghanistan have paid insurgent groups to protect US supply routes from attack. Roston discussed his findings on Democracy Now! in November.

    Aram Roston: “The security companies reach arrangements with the local Taliban, the local warlords and various insiders to pay them off for protection. It’s very much like an extortion racket and very much like a protection racket, and it amounts to huge amounts of money. Some say ten percent, some say far more than ten percent, of the convoys. Some say that most of the security budgets are going towards these payments to the Taliban and to the tribal leaders and the warlords.”

    Roston’s story prompted the congressional probe. The military has now opened a criminal investigation into the payoffs.
    Wikileaks Retains Legal Defense for Detained Servicemember

    The website has announced it’s retained a legal team to assist a US servicemember who may have leaked video of a US military helicopter gunship’s indiscriminate killings of Iraqi civilians. Army Specialist Bradley Manning was recently detained in Iraq after an acquaintance claimed that Manning had taken responsibility for sending Wikileaks the video along with thousands of classified US government records. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also says his group plans to release documents related to another deadly US attack on Afghan civilians as early as this week, followed by video of the incident later in the summer.

    • Leen says:

      Creepy. Say the words “we are there to protect the civilians” and send special forces to kill them and apologize in the morning by paying them “30,000 and two sheep” for their dead family members.

  5. Leen says:

    McChrystal Drama is Sideshow;
    Can Obama define a realistic Goal?
    Posted on June 23, 2010 by Juan

    The Daily Telegraph in the UK talked to a senior congressional figure late Tuesday or very early Wednesday ET, who said that Gen. Stanley McChrystal had submitted his resignation in advance of Wednesday’s meeting at the White House between him and President Barack Obama. The step was prompted by a revealing profile in Rolling Stone magazine, now available on the web, in which McChrystal and members of his circle displayed open contempt for other Obama administration officials, including the vice president.
    The Capitol Hill source also said that possible successors to McChrystal were already being discussed along with ways to get a quick Senate confirmation, though a final decision had not been made. Among names being considered are Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who has been heading up the NATO effort to train Afghanistan troops, and Gen. James Mattis, the retiring head of the US Joint Forces Command. (Spencer Ackerman asked Mattis about the rumors and his office replied that he serves at the pleasure of the president, which I take it to mean he is interested.)

    Adding to the sense of McChrystal’s career possibly crashing and burning is the report from Matthew Green of the Financial Times in Marjah [scroll down] that US special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador in Kabul Karl Eikenberry visited Marjah on Monday and met with local elders to the sound of small arms fire in the background. (H/t to Michael Pollack for the link and his comments). Then as Holbrooke and Eikenberry were leaving the meeting site, a bomb went off, which apparently had been intended for them on the part of three suicide bombers but detonated prematurely at a local shop. The purpose of the visit was for Holbrooke to assess how well McChrystal’s counter-insurgency doctrine was going in Marjah. The local elders said that the Marines had improved security in some areas but not others. One said he had had to travel to the meeting secretly for fear of Taliban reprisals.

    When the US special envoy and ambassador can’t visit a place in a country without hearing small arms fire or risking being a bombing target, I’d say security is not good there.

  6. phred says:

    Excellent post EW. I agree that McChrystal has handed the country a perfect reason to do a thorough going review of our present approach to the war.

    I just wanted to comment on one little bit though and that is this quote from McChrystal:

    The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF’s own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,” McChrystal says.

    Having to listen to Americans complain about corruption abroad is increasingly difficult to take. You could just as easily substitute “U.S. government” for “ISAF” and “Americans” for “Afghans” given the current state of affairs here at home.

    It is insulting to listen to our own corrupt officials call out others for behavior they engage in themselves.

  7. scribe says:

    The US Army taught its student officers there are nine principles of war, i.e., unchanging requirements and questions to be met, addressed, and resolved in the planning andexecution of any military operation. These principles are neatly acronymed by the two words “MOSS MOUSE”. To name them and give a short elaboration on them, they are:

    Mass – use enough force/resource and concentrate it where it will do the most “good”
    Objective – everything is to be directed at accomplishing an objective. Identify it. If the activity does not contribute toward accomplishing it, get rid of the non-contributing activity and move the people/resource to someactivity which does.
    Speed – get it done quickly, before the other guy can react to it. No lollygagging.
    Security – Don’t let the other guy know what, where, when, how or why you’re doing something, nor who’s doing it.
    Maneuver – if you can get to the objective by moving around the other guy rather than fighting through him, do it. It’s also called holding the initative and decidingwhere the other guy will have to fight.
    Offensive – you only accomplish your mission by taking it to the oher guy, not sitting back and waiting for it to come to you.
    Unity of Command – there must be a well-defined line of command from higher to lower, with no back-channels or end-arounds.
    Surprise – do that which the other guy does not expect, where he does not expect it, when, or how
    Economy of Force – do whatever you do with the least resources necessary to achieve the objective. Spend the lives of your soldiers grudgingly.

    You get the idea.

    We are now nine years into a war in Afghanistan and in those years we have never had a clearly defined objective – it has always been in flux. There has been a relatively-continuous propaganda objective set forth for domestic US consumption – get the Taliban and Osama, prevent terrism – but even that has changed over the years. So, what is the objective in Afghanistan? (I could go through the other 8, too, but that would be both too long and divert me from the objective of this comment.)

    More to the point, re McChrystal, you cannot tell me he does not have an objective (or several) in mind with this debacle of an interview-month. The nine principles of war are pounded into the heads of West Pointers pretty much from jump. They are pounded into the heads of lieutenants and, by the time one makes captain, they are as much a part of that officer as is breathing. In McChrystal we have a soldier – almost 40 years in one uni or another to date – who has risen to the highest ranks of his country’s military. Is there anyone out there who could rationally think he is anything other than a distillation of these principles in all he says and does?

    And, if it is true (as Spencer said in a post yesterday) that in this interview McChrystal had merely fucked up and was not scheming to get fired, I respond by saying it shows his real mindset. Someone once told me her advice to her daughters (and which she’d applied herself) was to make sure to get the guy you were thinking about marrying seriously drunk. See what kind of a drunk he is, because if he’s a nasty one that’s a reflection of what he’s really like. If, OTOH, he’s a happy drunk, that’s also a reflection of what he’s really like.

    What this interview shows us is twofold – behind the public face McChrystal is both scornful of civilian authority and his apologies are not sincere. When I say scornful of civilian authority, I mean “any civilian authority” – Presidents, laws, you name it. He’s an arrogant fuck who found a perfect feedback of that arrogance in the snake-eater community: I’m arrogant, therefore I’ll be able to do all these Superman SF things. I’m able to do all these Superman SF things, therefore what looks like arrogance to you (peon) is really just my superiority showing itself. He got hanmered and let it out.

    And that arrogance yields repeated insincere apologies. The vignette with the SEAL – hit them though I’ll have to apologize for it tomorrow (snigger, yuk, yuk) – encapsulates it perfectly.

    And all the anonymous assistants’ comments? A staff reflects its commander. That’s true in every instance. If the staff feels free to make those kinds of comments, that means they know their boss will not penalize them for it, that he’s in agreement with it.

    The problem is in the getting rid of McChrystal – if the wingnuts are for it, that means they think they can benefit from it. He should be glad I’m not president.

  8. Leen says:

    McChrstal should have given Obama his opinion in private not to the Rolling Stone..unless he wanted to be fired

    • BoxTurtle says:

      unless he wanted to be fired

      You’re not the only person who’s wondering that. This will form a perfect ramp to 2012.

      Boxturtle (Remember my prediction: Him and Sarah onstage together before the end of the year)

  9. Leen says:

    Daily Telegraph had all ready reported that McChrystal handed in his resignation. The AP just announced that McChrsytal is not attending a war planning meeting. Gone

  10. emptywheel says:

    WaPo reporting that O will have remarks about McC at 11:35, which is just 10 minutes before the previously scheduled Afghan-Pakistan strategy meeting will begin.

  11. Rayne says:

    Have been informed that what McC has been charged with executing is not HIS plan but a cobbled-up version. “Cherry-picked,” was the word used.

    It’s also not the VP’s plan, some of which may have been cherry-picked, too.

    In the end, it’s the administration’s plan and it’s not working, it sucks.

    But it’s a lot easier to flog somebody who clearly couldn’t exercise political savvy than to hold the administration accountable.

    • Leen says:

      that was Juan Cole’s focus this morning. Obama’s plan in Afghanistan

      what a crazy ass situation. A country and people that have been suffering a long time from ongoing wars. Orchards destroyed by the Russians, a growing heroin problem amongst the population, a leader of the country who is involved in some capacity with that drug trade, Taliban control and convoluted agendas, heroin use outside that country determining the demand. What fucking mess.

      How can the people of Afghanistan be helped within that crazy ass, poppy growing and dependent situation? Who would have wanted to be in McChrystal’s shoes? You would have to be crazy.

      I keep hearing Colonel McGregor on the Diane Rehm show about Afghanistan. He actually seems to make sense.

    • bmaz says:

      Who gives a fuck whether it is his plan or not; that is not his decision. And if the prick cannot shut his mouth and do his job with a bit of honor instead of repeatedly whining and trying to subvert civilian authority, he is not fit for his assigned rank, authority and job. And he indeed is not fit for the job as his conduct has repeatedly proven.

      If Obama does not have the balls nor the respect for the Presidency to woodshed and fire McChrystal, then Obama should resign because he is not fit for his job either. There are just some things you gotta do because that is the way it has to be; this is one of them, lest Obama leave a serious bad marker in the wrong direction for future administrations when it comes to civilian control of the military.

      • DWBartoo says:

        If McChrystal simply resigns, then, Obama imagines, everything will quietly go away … and Obama will have his “life” back.

        Were Obama to fire McChrystal, then Obama might have to examine certain things … truth to tell.

        If Obama had balls … and one or two other critical “things” … then …

        If wishes were horses, then … hoi poloi would ride.

        Will Obama disappoint … once again?

        Remember, SCOTUS knows “terrorists” when it sees them. It also knows who the Good Guys are.

        Who would Obama rather disappoint?


      • wigwam says:

        If Obama does not have the balls nor the respect for the Presidency to woodshed and fire McChrystal, then Obama should resign because he is not fit for his job either.

        When Obama meets with McChrystal today, there will be two cowards in the room, both trying to duck blame for America’s defeat in Afghanistan.

      • Rayne says:

        I give a fuck because it’s not Bush’s plan, it isn’t McChrystal’s plan, it’s now solidly Obama’s plan, and it ain’t the change that I voted for.

  12. b2020 says:

    “His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”

    Another word from the Special Olympics Forces.

    You can be brave, or you can be force protected. Whatever the merits of the various COIN schemes and schemers, on the (pace Boyd via Lind) “moral level” you have no business to kill for your cause if you are not willing to actually – not theoretically, potentially, occasionally, 1:100 – die for it in proportion to the mayhem you inflict. I acknowledge that the US military, for reasons of domestic politics (and, see veteran affairs, certainly not out of a heartfelt need to “support the troops”), is striving towards ultimatily risk-free “soldiering” through kill-by-wire joystickery, but the heroic postures struck by JSOC “mission specialists” looks increasingly pathetic. Maybe the Purple Heart should be awarded to the UAVs at some point, when we finally have the hyperkinetic battlefield devoid of US citizens (and, with an eye on immigration soliders, devoid of US citizen wannabes) and can put akll that moutbreathing patriotism to rest.

    To borrow a phrase from the despicable O’Hanlon, Amazing Americans abound, and insist on being served with a chance for service.

  13. wigwam says:

    Per Ray McGovern:


    McChrystal and his supporters have failed miserably and they know it. But they lack any measure of being gracious — or honest — in defeat.

    Worse still for McChrystal is the fact that his archrival, retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, now ambassador to Afghanistan, has been proven correct “beyond reasonable doubt,” so to speak, in challenging McChrystal’s adolescent views regarding how to turn the Afghan mess around.

    Last November, Eikenberry told Washington that McChrystal’s whiz-bang counterinsurgency strategy was nonsense, and that the President should look beyond a military solution.

    Anyone with a modicum of experience can now see that it was Eikenberry who had it right during last year’s policy review. The texts of two cables he sent to Washington in early November were published in the New York Times. (For more on Eikenberry-McChrystal, see “Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning.” [])


    The entire article is well worth reading.

  14. Leen says:

    Bmaz the article that Wigwam linked lines up with what you are saying

    “Little can account for Obama’s promotion of McChrystal to his current post, except for a strange blend of cowardice tinged with ignorance. McChrystal had been Vice President Dick Cheney’s right-hand man in running Special Forces hit-squad assassins and torturers in Iraq.

    From these endeavors, McChrystal has accumulated a fearsome following of what might be called the “worst of the worst” among both the U.S. military and Blackwater-style mercenaries. Here is Hastings on McChrystal’s entourage:

    “The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators, and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. … they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.”

    McGovern hits these points out of the park

  15. Siun says:

    The argument that the troops in the field are left to fight violence without violence is bullshit. This was PR spin floated when McChrystal announced – once again – that the ROE were being changed after yet another special forces massacre of civilians. McChrystal did not begin this – it was going on before he arrived – but he played it for all it was worth.

    The changes in the ROE have never said the soldiers cannot fight – only that they have to abide by *international legal standards of civilian protection.*

    And each time the ROE have been “changed” we have continued to see the same behavior by US forces, followed by the same play of “regrets” rather than prosecutions for violations and similar enforcement of respect for the “new” ROE.

    This pattern of murdering civilians, denying it happened, then when faced with clear evidence, expressing regret is what I’ve been documenting almost every week for years now and you cannot read the record without seeing that such persistent violations of the publicly proclaimed ROE has to be approved by the command since it is neither punished nor stopped.

    • wigwam says:

      And we are asked to believe that all this killing is counterfire. “After all, our forces have to protect themselves. They get very frustrated when they can’t match violence with violence.”

      But, since when are drone operators taking fire from wedding parties?

        • wigwam says:

          “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”

          Exactly! And, as you pointed out:

          The argument that the troops in the field are left to fight violence without violence is bullshit. This was PR spin floated when McChrystal announced – once again – that the ROE were being changed after yet another special forces massacre of civilians. McChrystal did not begin this – it was going on before he arrived – but he played it for all it was worth.

          The victims of these death pose no more threat to our forces than the wedding parties pose to the drone operators. These guys are Dawg Chapman wannabes, with a license to kill. Buy them video games and send them home.

  16. Leen says:

    Drug use
    UN: Global drug use shifting to synthetic drugs

    By MATTHEW LEE (AP) – 2 hours ago

    In Brief Drug addiction up sharply in Afghanistan
    In the past five years the number of people using heroin in Afghanistan has risen 140 percent, and opium addiction has gone up by over 50 percent, according to a new drug survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

    About one million Afghans – 8 percent of the population aged 15-64 – are addicted to drugs: 120,000 to heroin and 230,000 to opium, said the survey released on 21 June.

    “After three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan,” Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC’s executive director, said in a press release.

    Opium Connection Afghanistan – US


    • wigwam says:

      In Brief Drug addiction up sharply in Afghanistan
      In the past five years the number of people using heroin in Afghanistan has risen 140 percent, and opium addiction has gone up by over 50 percent, according to a new drug survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

      Oh shit! Now it’s the goddamn war-on-drugs, which is even stupider than the war-on-terror. Everything’s a war. So, send in the DEA.

      • Leen says:

        Can’t find anything about which country buys most of the opium? Where it is processed etc? Do you know which country has the biggest demand for heroin?

  17. bobschacht says:

    I haven’t had time to read through all the comments yet, but EW as usual, you are *right on.* IMHO we need to bring the troops home, and convert this to a State Department operation emphasizing jobs, schools, and hospitals. The Taliban insurgency is directly related to the high unemployment rate.

    Bob in AZ

  18. Leen says:

    Opium and Heroin Production Still Huge in Afghanistan

    “Big Bucks for Poppy Farmers

    While the government is desperate to eradicate the crop, Afghans are just as desperate to feed their families.

    Growing poppy seeds for opium is a way for small farmers to make big money — as much as 10 times more than growing wheat and six times more than growing fruit trees. An acre of poppies equals a $4,000 profit.

    New approaches to wipe out poppy fields, such as plans to buy out farmers, have failed because the funding just isn’t there.”


    Why not subsidize poppy farmers until they can grow other crops and then continue to subsidize these farmers like we subsidize farming in the states ?

  19. klynn says:

    Looking at the photos and footage of McC’s arrival this AM at thee White House, McC was seriously clenching his jaw, frowning, tightening eyebrows and pursing his lips.

    Very little eye contact too.

    Lots of physical expressions of stress.

    • Leen says:

      Just does not stack up. How could you think that you would make it through such an obvious kick to the cajones of the Obama administration? Well I guess he had all ready gotten away with it but this Rolling Stone interview was a solid well aimed chop to the Obama administration’s cajones. You have to wonder whether he wanted to go.

  20. klynn says:

    12.50pm: The latest news is that President Obama will be making a statement on McChrystal at 1.30pm ET (that’s 6.30pm UK time).

    Just an FYI.

    • scribe says:

      MSNBC reporting Obama has selected Petraeus to succeed McChrystal.

      A masterstroke, if you ask me, since it is giving General Betrayus charge of the impossible task of running and winning Afghanistan and tying him up in that debacle, prospectively keeping him out of the country and of political shenanigans for quite a while.

      Now, he needs to reassign McChrystal to counting snowflakes in Greenland until Obama gets tired of it.

      • brendanx says:

        Isn’t Petraeus just going to turn around and demand, albeit more diplomatically, the same things McChrystal has?

        • scribe says:

          This is one of several modalities of The Army Way of Ridding Oneself of a Troublesome Subordinate.

          Modality 1: Give him so much work that he cannot accomplish all of it. Bonus points for arranging that the jobs assigned to the subordinate require the subordinate to, literally, physically be in two or three places at the same time.

          Modality 2: Give him a mission which cannot succeed, then blame him for it failing.

          Modality 3: Deprive him of resources necessary to accomplish his (accomplishable) mission, then blame him for failing.

          Modality 4: Give him a mission which will literally get him killed. (Not available in civilian life.)

          Modality 5: Recognize that the personal traits of the subordinate will result in him alienating everyone around him or otherwise self-destructing, then just come in and sweep up after he does.

          As to Betrayus, this seems to be largely Modality 2. As to McChrystal, it was mostly Modality 5.

      • scribe says:

        Now he needs to reassign McChrystal to counting snowflakes in Greenland until Obama gets tired of him doing so.

  21. prostratedragon says:

    Well at least there’s that, finally. But not only does it not automatically solve the problem of (getting the blazes out of) Afghanistan, it doesn’t even solve the institutional problems in McCrystal’s command that the article displayed so clearly, though I suppose Petraeus getting to bring in some of his own key people will shove out some of McC’s.

  22. klynn says:

    1.35pm ET: Still waiting on Obama. Retired general on Fox calls McChrystal “an American hero” and then lapses into sentences entirely made up of cliches: “He should have been taken to the woodshed and then sent back out there to take this thing across the goal line.”

    Retired general then says he’s glad that Rolling Stone reporters weren’t at their “cigar nights” out there in Kabul. They have “cigar nights”?

    Can we have those cigar nights taped and broadcast?

      • Petrocelli says:

        *waves to skdadl*

        It’s been a tough week already … sure am looking forward to spendin’ a nice, calm weekend in Downtown Toronto …

        • skdadl says:

          Hey, kiddo — did you feel the earthquake? We got quite a shake — took me a minute to figure out what was happening.

          Man, there’s nothing those terr’ists and anarchists won’t do to get attention, eh?

          • Petrocelli says:

            Was that an Earthquake ? I thought Harper’s plane had landed … – 5.5 on the Richter scale.

              • skdadl says:

                The centre was in Quebec, just north of Ottawa — they have some moderate damage there, lovely old stone churches in trouble, which is sad. Apparently they could hear the rumbling for an hour or so afterwards.

                I’m closer to Toronto — we got a good jolt but not for long, and I don’t think there’s any damage.

                PM Harper says he didn’t feel a thing, even though senators in committee session in the same building watched chandeliers swinging. Ahem. Double ahem.

        • skdadl says:

          And a more srs PS: Are you going in? I’ve thought about it, but the train would land me right in the middle of Paranoia Central (aka Union Station). I have a friend who could drive us in, but I hate the 401 anyway, and it’s likely to be motorcaded.

          • Petrocelli says:

            Nope, I’m staying the heck away from downtown, even though I know some really great Chefs there …

              • skdadl says:

                One thing after another is being cancelled. The place is apparently turning into a ghost town, or East Berlin ca 1955. That’s partly why I wish I could see it, just to see how bad the security overkill has got.

                  • skdadl says:

                    klynn, N-O-T-Lake is funny in the situation, since part of the billion-dollar boondoggle is that Fake Lake in the Toronto G8/G20 media centre, just metres away from a real lake — a Great lake, in fact.

                    Niagara-on-the-Lake is dear, I agree, and the Shaw is wonderful. Plus they are swimming in wine, quite good wine now too.

  23. scribe says:

    Obama: “Yakety, yakety, yakety, yakety, yak,” blowing a chance to kick some ass and make sure people subordinate to him know that he is the MFIC (that’s motherfucker-in-charge to those who didn’t know).

    Obama should have said:

    I am here today to nominate General Betrayus to take over in Afghanistan. I am grateful for his accepting the nomination.

    Full Stop.

    And then noted the dismissal of McChrystal in an end-of-the-day press release with all the other ash and trash stuff that the WH press office puts out; that he’d been relieved, not that his resignation had been accepted. No praise of him – his conduct was not some aberration but had been growing for some time and it dishonored his whole career. Obama should never have said it was a difficult decision, regardless of how difficult it might have been. Getting rid of McChrystal should have been, publicly, an easy decision. The hard part of the decision was who to replace him with and where this goes after.

    The cold-hearted approach would have communicated to the troops in the field just how serious the fuckup was, and what they could expect if this insubordnation shit (aided and abetted by the wingnuts) continued.

    • phred says:

      There are a great many things Obama should have done. Alas, he is not the forthright leader we need.

      Instead we get the sleazy manipulative unprincipled hack who will happily lie to your face. Is it any wonder that this guy is incapable of the public smackdown that McChrystal so richly deserved? I have zero respect for Obama and each day confirms to me how little respect he deserves.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I thought it was amazing that Obama showed as much spine as he did. After all, he could have accepted McC’s resignation and praised him for all the terrorists he’d killed and thanked him for his years of loyal service.

      Boxturtle (typical ObamaLLP middle of the road approch)

  24. klynn says:

    Here’s my take as to “why” Petraeus. Petraeus and Biden now see eye to eye on the IP conflict and how it is hurting the US in the ME.

    Petraeus will be in a further position to confirm his concerns. The FP article I linked to is well worth reading and applying to today’s appointment announcement.

  25. BayStateLibrul says:

    McChrystal likes Bud Lite and I think he likes the poppy too.
    He wanted out.
    No one in their right mind would get in bed with Rolling Stone unless
    he had a purpose.
    He’s nuts…
    If the war turns to shit like all wars do, he’ll be a folk hero.
    He indirectly resigned like Palin…

    • phred says:

      Yep. I think McChrystal was looking for an exit and figured this would be the most face-saving way to do it. He looks like a big tough guy talking smack about an incompetent administration, hoping to pin the failure on them. And if things continue to go badly, McChrystal can blame it on not getting the support he needed from the politicians (Vietnem redux).

      I actually do think Petraeus was a smart choice by Obama to the extent that the generals who came up with this foolish plan will still have to wear it.

      However, that does not absolve Obama of the responsibility of having to come up with a real solution to the problem of the Afghan war, which he has clearly not done. Nor does it excuse him from the weak-kneed way that he politely escorted McChrystal to the curb.

      • BayStateLibrul says:

        You’re right. I’m against all wars, and finishing the Junger book confirms
        my belief that our policy will not work.
        The decision today buys time for Obama (until 2011).
        I’m not surprised that Obama didn’t pull a Cheney or a Bush… (hang ’em at Sundown).
        Obama is who he is, and it’s not what folks were led to believe.
        But, can you name another Progressive Democrat that will be ready for 2012?
        I can’t.
        The nation is still divided.
        I’m still happy we have a Dem in the White House.

        • phred says:

          I’d give a great deal to see Elizabeth Warren run.

          But that’s the thing isn’t it… so many of our name-brand politicians have been so thoroughly disappointing that it is hard to name one that would be an improvement over Obama.

          I’m ready to look beyond the ranks of professional politicians (whether in DC or in various state governments). I think we need to reinvigorate the idea of having people from all walks of life run for office. Warren would be a good start : )

          • BayStateLibrul says:

            I’d support an Elizabeth Warren campaign.
            Heard her on “On Point” — smart and honest, not afraid to get her hands
            I’m ready for a woman Prez anywhichway.

            • phred says:

              I’m ready for a woman Prez anywhichway.

              President Palin? ; )

              Kidding, just pulling your leg BSL, couldn’t help myself ; )

              I’m with you though, I would like to see more diversity in that office — just want to see progressive policies represented there, too : )

  26. BoxTurtle says:

    Instead we get the sleazy manipulative unprincipled hack who will happily lie to your face.

    While I supported Obama, I screamed at the top of my lungs (and keyboard) that people needed to remember that Obama is a Chicago politician.

    We got what we voted for.

    Boxturtle (He has at least one principle: re-election)

  27. klynn says:

    Here’s a snip:

    The Mullen briefing and Petraeus’s request hit the White House like a bombshell. While Petraeus’s request that CENTCOM be expanded to include the Palestinians was denied (“it was dead on arrival,” a Pentagon officer confirms), the Obama administration decided it would redouble its efforts — pressing Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for a carefully arranged meeting with the chief of the Israeli General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. While the American press speculated that Mullen’s trip focused on Iran, the JCS Chairman actually carried a blunt, and tough, message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that Israel had to see its conflict with the Palestinians “in a larger, regional, context” — as having a direct impact on America’s status in the region. Certainly, it was thought, Israel would get the message.

  28. klynn says:

    And another snip:

    Israel didn’t. When Vice President Joe Biden was embarrassed by an Israeli announcement that the Netanyahu government was building 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, the administration reacted. But no one was more outraged than Biden who, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, engaged in a private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the importance the administration attached to Petraeus’s Mullen briefing: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.” Yedioth Ahronoth went on to report: “The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.” The message couldn’t be plainer: Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives


    But to get the point of “why” Petraeus today, go read the “kicker” last paragraph about powerful lobbies in the US.

  29. BoxTurtle says:

    The message couldn’t be plainer: Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives

    But it will NOT cost them votes in the Knesset, the US congress, or the White House. Nor does it have the slightest chance of impacting the monthly cash transfer from us to Israel. Thus, it does not matter.

    Boxturtle (Everything you need to know about Isreali foreign poilcy in one paragraph!)

    • klynn says:

      Did you go and read the last paragraph of the FP article?

      Here you go:

      There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers — and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden’s trip to Israel has forever shifted America’s relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Oh, Iread it. But Isreal has directly caused the death of american soldiers in the past (USS liberty) and US civilians, most recently in an act that is at best piracy and at worst an act of war.

        Those are real US deaths with israeli bullets. Imputed deaths that can be blamed on Scary Brown Moslems easily will not impress the US voters, the US congress, or the Knesset.

        Boxturtle (We’ve already sent a cash transfer since they killed the latest American citizen)

      • Leen says:

        And how many times and from how many CIA analyst, leaders and people in that part of the world do we need to hear that this is the most critical issue in the middle east to resolve fairly?

        The importance of resolving this issue was even mentioned in the 9/11 commission report. How many people have to blow themselves up along with others to brutally demonstrate how pissed off people are about the U.S. role in that conflict, U.S. military bases on their land, drone attacks etc?

        Former head of the CIA Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer addresses motivations on Washington Journal this past week

        “we have not progressed since 9/11″

        “they are motivated by the impact of our foreign policy”

      • Leen says:

        And here is what is happening in some of the illegal settlements…more illegal growth.

        Israeli expo in NYC markets penthouses in settlements

        “Holyland Properties of Brookyn wanted to sell me a high rise apartment in a new development in East Jerusalem’s Eshkol Heights. Tivuch Shelly Levine was in town from Israel to sell units in Modi’in (within the pre-1967 borders, barely, so as to grow “naturally” into the West Bank) starting at $366,000, and units in the settlement of Maale Adumim (where she’s based) starting at $217,000. The Israeli construction company Chazon and Galili was there peddling units in a new neighborhood of Beit Shemesh, with red tile roofs as if over the Green Line yet within the 1967 borders; it takes some committed googling to tell a settlement from a suburb. Chazon and Galili first got into the business by building the settlement of Har Nof on top of the Deir Yassin massacre site.

        Finally, with the Aliyah Expo drawing to a close and the crowds clearing out, I stopped by Kedumim 3000, the deeply ideological settlement construction giant whose bulldozers break ground all over the West Bank, including Kiryat Arba, the hothouse for settler violence on the edge of Hebron. The Kedumim 3000 backdrop advertised “penthouses and apartments with a view of the Temple Mount” in the Maale Hazeitim “Neighborhood in [East] Jerusalem.” A gold dome could be seen through the window in the artist’s rendering of a sleek, modern living room. A blackhat family with a baby stroller was deep in conversation with the Kedumim proprietors, a mess of floor plans spread out in front of them. “Do you mind if I take a pamphlet?” I asked out of courtesy as I lifted one from the tall stack. “No!” the man snapped. “I haven’t enough.” Apparently, a screening process was at work.”

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