April 12, 2008

There's something to be said for continuity

Phil Carter, over at his new digs on the Washington Post website, says 12-month tour to Iraq and Afghanistan may still be too long. Phil may be right about that, but here's something Abu Muqawama would add: 12 months is not too long for senior commanders. It is, in fact, far too short.

How many commanders have we had in Afghanistan since 2001? Six? Seven? How many ambassadors to Afghanistan have we had since 2001? Again, six or seven? How the hell can we establish any kind of unity of effort and continuity of effort with that kind of turn-over?

Abu Muqawama has gotten the opportunity over the past three weeks to sit down and shoot the breeze with two former commanders in Afghanistan, both serious and well-respected counter-insurgency field commanders. Both of these guys had a good plan for Afghanistan, neither stayed longer than 18 months, and upon leaving, their successors scrapped much of what they had put in place.

Can you imagine us doing that in the Second World War? Hell, Doug MacArthur (who probably should have been fired in 1941, but that's another story), didn't step foot on U.S. soil for something like 11 years!

So here's a piece of advice to the next president. After this man finishes his tour (the sooner, perhaps, the better in his case), send your best counter-insurgency field commander out to Kabul/Bagram and leave him there for three years. Let him take his wife if you have to. But one of the things the missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan need is a clear strategy and a leadership team put in place to execute that strategy over the long haul.