The Effects of the Change in Command

Featured in the many sorry tales of American adventures in Afghanistan there is a regular protagonist: the swashbuckler. He is the military special forces guy or the CIA spy. He is the man who believes that he has the keys to Kandahar, that his cleverly distributed $20 million, his special political relationships and his understanding of Pakistani interests will enable the United States to slide gracefully away. In too many ways, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, special forces vet, was another in a long series of such men in Afghanistan.

U.S. strategy will doubtless change in the coming months--because it was headed for failure. Too many in command--and too many advising them--believed that counterinsurgency strategy would not require clearing terrorists and establishing security first and foremost. Instead, they were obsessed with the intricacies of the Karzai family and details about corruption. Finally, even as professional and competent a general as David Petraeus cannot succeed if the president continues to tolerate the Shakespearean drama that is Washington Afghan policy. Special envoy Richard Holbrooke connives to undercut the military command; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry won't talk to International Security and Assistance Force leaders and connives to discredit his opponents at the Pentagon. Both should go because they have put politics above the mission and ego above all. Without them, and with a new command and a president committed to a serious, drama-free policy, we can begin down the road to victory in Afghanistan.

Danielle Pletka is the vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.

Photo Credit: Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Bradley A. Lail, U.S. Air Force

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About the Author

 

Danielle
Pletka

  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.


    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


     


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5943
    Email: dpletka@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alexandra Della Rocchetta
    Phone: 202-862-7152
    Email: alex.dellarocchetta@aei.org

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