As Obama Embraces Multi-Fronted War, He Fires Chuck Hagel

In recent days, the press has reported that President Obama signed an order (or on second thought, maybe it’s just an unsigned decision that can’t be FOIAed, so don’t start anything, Jason Leopold) basically halting and partly reversing his plans for withdrawal.

President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

Virtually simultaneously with the decision to permit American forces to be more involved with the Afghan government, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reversed Hamid Karzai’s ban on night raids — and also renamed them “night operations.”

The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor had imposed.

Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, according to Afghan military officials as well as officials with the American-led military coalition.

That news comes after published accounts of an order by President Obama to allow the American military to continue some limited combat operations in 2015. That order allows for the sort of air support necessary for successful night raids.

Night raids were banned for the most part in 2013 by President Hamid Karzai. Their resumption is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive. Mindful of the bad name that night raids have, the American military has renamed them “night operations.”

Night operations …. sort of like the tooth fairy?

And now that Obama has made it clear he will spend his Lame Duck continuing — escalating, even — both forever wars he got elected to end, he has fired forced the resignation of the Secretary of Defense he hired to make peace.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse ofPresident Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.

But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary.

Some great reporting from the NYT, getting all three scoops about Obama’s pivot to war.

I’m just hoping someone is reporting out the really important questions: who will be paying for the resumption of the forever war, and how it will be any more successful than the last 13 years?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

22 replies
  1. bevin says:

    “…who will be paying for the resumption of the forever war…”
    Most of the cost in blood and foregone opportunities will fall on the brown skinned populace of the theatres of operations.

    A not insignificant cost will also be paid in the transfer of money from poor taxpayers to rich Merchants of Death (as the Republicans used to call them) and in service to the public debt from the same taxpayers to the tiny elite of rentiers which, until it is repudiated by a nation which has rubbed the sleep out of its eyes, collects its interest without fail. A process which allows Congress and President to waste money like drunken sailors with political impunity.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    Is it John McCain or Lindsay Graham who will be appointed Secretary of Defense? Those are the only two names I can see being confirmed by the Republican-dominated (if not yet controlled) Senate.

    So now Hillary can come to power promising to end the wars.

    • Peterr says:

      Sarah Palin seems to have experience with two years of service during a four year term. And besides — did you see how she and her family defended themselves at a neighborhood party? Imagine how she’ll defend our country!
      If anyone needs me, I’ll just be over in the corner . . .

  3. Don Bacon says:

    from Stars & Stripes:
    That [resumed night raids] news comes after published accounts of an order by President Obama to allow the American military to continue some limited combat operations in 2015. That order allows for the sort of air support necessary for successful night raids.
    This are the actions that kill civilians and keep the “insurgency” humming, which is the objective.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    “War is a racket. . .the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” — MajGen Smedley D. Butler, USMC, double recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1935

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Reports are that Hagel brought up the anti-ISIS fiasco and that was the reason for the divorce. Good for him. Perhaps he will join Panetta and Gates in panning the clown in the White House.

  6. yastreblyansky says:

    Given that one of Hagel’s sins appears to be overstating the threat of the “Islamic State”–

    directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful

    and that he must have been one of the national security advisors opposed to White House inner circle who urged allowing US troops in Afghanistan to participate in combat

    The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country….

    Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban — and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda.

    –are you completely sure Hagel isn’t getting sacked for being too hawkish?

    • Don Bacon says:

      Hagel didn’t make the decision that ISIS must be defeated, the Commander-in-Chief did. Once that (faulty) decision is made, next come the decisions on the best way to implement it. Don’t confuse decisions.

      • yastreblyansky says:

        That’s the decision to join “with our friends and allies to degrade, and ultimately destroy, the terrorist group known as ISIL,” without ground troops, and in the ways that have already been “successful” in Yemen and Somalia. You can’t take one word of the decision seriously and reject all the qualifications. It’s a far more modest effort than Hagel wanted to suggest. I think the aims are more political (in terms of Middle East alliances and also Washington) than military.

  7. Phil Perspective says:

    A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

    WTF does this mean?!? He voted for the clusterfuck!! He wasn’t that skeptical! Stupid newspapers.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Obamanopoly: A game like Risk, but where everyone else pays the price when you roll of the dice.
    Mr. Obama seems never to have met an excess of power he couldn’t charm, make his own, and perpetuate.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Obama’s loss of his “Democratic majority in the Senate” seems a small fig leaf to cover a naked assertion of power from across the Potomac. “Fulfilling” the house of war’s mission, in the conduct of endless wars, is to make sure they have no end. Mr. Hagel seems not to have gotten that memo.

  10. coloradoblue says:

    I would like to suggest a small change to the title of this post.

    “As Obama embraces another un-winnable war, He fire Chuck Hagel”

    Much closer to reality.

  11. ES&S says:

    @Yastreblyansky, you’re right about the conflicting leaks. Their artificial controversy is a deft misdirection. Hagel’s firing has nothing to do with hawkishness or dovishness, which are irrelevant to his performance. Hagel does what he’s told, just like Obama.

    When the anonymous sources talk about Hagel’s failure or his unsuitability, it’s important to understand what he got hired to do. Remember that Hagel got into the Senate by stealing his own election with his own AIS® voting machines. Then, after a probationary period as a Senate figurehead, he got moved up to the big time, stealing other countries’ elections. That is harder. Hagel tried and tried to install US puppet Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai but he couldn’t steal the election fair and square. Now they don’t need a ballot stuffer anymore, they need a death-squad commandante again, so Hagel is shit through a goose.

  12. GKJames says:

    The one piece of obviousness that continues to elude Washington: a comprehensive peace conference, all parties (yes, including the Taliban), no conditions. Instead, we’re offered more insanity that’s guaranteed to perpetuate (1) a flow of (mostly Afghan) blood sufficient to give the political home front a good show, but not so much as to turn the public against the enterprise; and (2) the country’s delusion that we can control outcomes in other countries, that we’re winning the “war on terror” and, above all, that we can do this without paying a price. In fairness to Obama, he isn’t off on a detour and frolic of his own; he presides over a broad and deep American consensus that looks to the razzle-dazzle of high-tech military methods to address non-military problems.

  13. Jo6pac says:

    And the little blood sucking Ks win again. The real soldier loses again to the cycle-0-paths. It’s amazing in that he didn’t sell out:(

  14. benp says:

    “I’m just hoping someone is reporting out the really important questions: who will be paying for the resumption of the forever war, and how it will be any more successful than the last 13 years?”

    Q1: Is the Petrodollar threatened by the policy? Q2: What else do these motherfuckers care about?

  15. TBob says:

    I’d suggest issuing “Unwinnable War Bonds” to finance the insanity, but it looks like the roaches have finally gained control of the motel. Happy Holidays, y’all.

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