June 24, 2010

CNAS Expert Commentary and Resources on U.S. Afghanistan Policy

In an intense week for U.S. Afghanistan policy,  the Center for a New American Security’s (CNAS) experts have provided analysis and commentary on the President’s decision to replace former ISAF Commander General Stanley McChrystal, USA, with General David Petraeus, USA, and what it means for U.S. strategy in Afghanistan moving forward.


By Fellow Andrew Exum, “What to Expect from General Petraeus,” The New York Times

"General Petraeus will quickly discover that while challenging the organizational culture of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps was difficult, challenging the organizational cultures of the 38 nations that contribute to the International Security and Assistance Force (I.S.A.F.) in Afghanistan is orders of magnitude more complicated ... It is clear that there is little agreement between the U.S. embassy in Kabul and the NATO command on the way forward in Afghanistan ... General Petraeus will likely continue the counterinsurgency strategy set in motion by General McChrystal. But unlike in Iraq, he is liable to find not only the Taliban but also his nominal allies threatening progress every step of the way." Read more.
By Senior Fellow Thomas Ricks, “Lose a General, Win a War,” The New York Times
“Some analysts fret that losing General McChrystal will mean sacrificing the relationship he had developed with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. But the general’s dysfunctional relationship with the other senior American officials in Kabul, painfully laid out this week in Rolling Stone, is more significant. If President Obama is to be faulted, it is for leaving that group in position after it became apparent last fall that the men could not work well together.” Read more.
By Senior Fellow Thomas Ricks, “In Afghanistan, Petraeus will Have Difficulty Replicating his Iraq Success,” The Washington Post
“McChrystal was dismissed because of the magazine article that laid before the world the sniping and backbiting between U.S. military and civilian officials in the Afghan war. That is not going to end just because Petraeus goes to Kabul, or even because the president has said he doesn't like it. It might end only when one person is put in charge of the overall American presence in Afghanistan, with the power to hire and fire. Obama has not taken that step, so it is likely that the same nettlesome quarrels that exasperated McChrystal also will fatigue his successor.” Read more.
By Senior Advisor Patrick Cronin, “What to Make of McChrystal’s Removal?” CNN.com
“President Obama has converted a crisis of command into an opportunity for leadership. By his decisive action to relieve Gen. McChrystal for eroding trust in civilian-run military, while simultaneously appointing Gen. Petraeus to head operations in Afghanistan, the president has renewed the unity of effort across our government that will be necessary to meet some of the most salient security goals of the nation. It is especially important that his principled decision not be seen as Washington political theater, but rather as an arduous judgment call to avoid having bureaucratic politics distract from the very serious mission of our forces in the field.” Read more.
"This is the most pressing theater, the most pressing mission, and Petraeus is someone who has the relationships and has the relationship with the president, and has the experience dealing publicly with people and the press," said Nick Fick, chief executive of the Center for a New American Security. "It's a good save." - CEO Nathaniel Fick for ABC World News Read more.
"The costs of replacing Gen. McChrystal at this point in the war were very high.  But the president figured out a way to minimize the transaction costs, while simultaneously reaffirming his faith in the strategy." - President John Nagl in the Los Angeles Times Read more.

“McChrystal is not the only guy who could run the war in Afghanistan. But if you leave McChrystal in place, you leave a weakened general in place, and you send a very message to the troops about discipline and judgment. The troops have a term - different spanks for different ranks - in which they suspect that generals get away with stuff that corporals don’t get away with. And the message here that Obama needs to send is, no, the entire military is subordinate to me and must show good judgment and discipline.” - Senior Fellow Tom Ricks on NPR’s Morning Edition with CEO Nate Fick Listen to the full show.
“[The President] really took someone who’s been working Afghanistan on a day to day basis and also has a lot of the authority and experience to really hit the ground running and try to turn things around there.” - Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine for CBS Evening News Watch the clip.
“[T]his is the decisive time and Afghan[stan] is at the decisive point. And you put your best talent at the decisive point and time." - President John Nagl in TIME Read more.
“[General Petraeus] clearly has the most stature and credibility of any commander in the military. That goes a long way, but you also have to deal with the expectations that accompany it.” - Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine in Agence France Press Read more.

"[Petraeus is] already completely up to date on the intelligence, knows the political and military actors and understands the region ... He's getting another opportunity to step into a war at a critical inflection point, when the security of the American people is at stake. So this is by no means a step down." - President John Nagl in the Associated Press Read more.
The military has a fluid chain of command, from Secretary Gates to General Petraeus to General McChrystal. But the ... civilian chain of command now is balkanized, because you have Ambassador Eikenberry. You have special envoy Holbrooke. You have Vice President Biden ... There's not that clear civilian czar of Afghan policy, like you had in Iraq with Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Remember, the Crocker-Petraeus team is really the gold standard, where President Bush had their backs and there was total fluidity... - Senior Fellow Robert Kaplan on CNN with John Roberts Read more.

"[Petraeus] has shown himself as an extraordinary commander… He's shown he can play nicely interagency…That worked well in Iraq." - Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine in USA Today Read more.



Leverage: Designing a Political Strategy for Afghanistan, by CNAS Fellow Andrew Exum

The Economic Imperative: Stabilizing Afghanistan Through Economic Growth, by CNAS CEO Nathaniel Fick and Clare Lockart
Rhetoric and Reality: Countering Terrorism in the Age of Obama, by CNAS Non-Resident Senior Fellow Marc Lynch
America's Extended Hand: Assessing the Obama Administration's Global Engagement Strategy, by CNAS Vice President and Director of Studies Kristin Lord and Non-Resident Senior Fellow Marc Lynch


Fellow Andrew Exum on Abu Muqawama and on Twitter at @abumuqawama; and Tom Ricks on The Best Defense.
Stay up to date with all CNAS experts in the news via Twitter at @CNASdc.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.