December 29, 2007

Charlie Wilson (Mike Vickers bonus edition)

The release of Charlie Wilson's War last week has prompted a barrage of first hand accounts of the good congressman's antics. Not surprisingly, two colorful, first-hand accounts come from the right wing of the journalistic spectrum (we won't hold that against them):

But the real gem this week was the WaPo profile of COIN cult hero Mike Vickers (who has a small but hilarious role in CWW).

Vickers, a former Green Beret and CIA operative, was the principal strategist for the biggest covert program in CIA history: the paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The movie "Charlie Wilson's War," released last weekend, portrays Vickers in that role, in which he directed an insurgent force of 150,000 Afghan fighters and controlled an annual budget of more than $2 billion in current dollars.

Today, as the top Pentagon adviser on counterterrorism strategy, Vickers exudes the same assurance about defeating terrorist groups as he did as a 31-year-old CIA paramilitary officer assigned to Afghanistan, where he convinced superiors that with the right strategy and weapons, the ragtag Afghan insurgents could win. "I am just as confident or more confident we can prevail in the war on terror," Vickers, 54, said in a recent interview, looking cerebral behind thick glasses but with an energy and build reminiscent of the high school quarterback he once was. "Not a lot of people thought we could drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.


Senior Pentagon and military officials regard Vickers as a rarity -- a skilled strategist who is both creative and pragmatic. "He tends to think like a gangster," said Jim Thomas, a former senior defense planner who worked with Vickers. "He can understand trends then change the rules of the game so they are advantageous for your side."

Which is exactly why he's so well suited to his current job as the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (SOLIC). Unfortunately, that post was sadly vacant for several years before he took over the position...and as a political appointee, his term is up in January 2009. Let's hope he works his gangster ways and figures how to stick around for a few more years (and if he could keep his boss in the building, that would be fine by this Charlie, too).

(SWJ Blog has more.)