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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