Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Ignoring the officers on the ground

President Obama has a habit of ignoring what the officers on the ground recommend because their recommendations don't accord with the President's ideological predilections. A couple of years ago at this time, he listened to Joe Biden and came up with his own numbers for how many troops we should have in Afghanistan.

President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Frustrated with his military commanders for consistently offering only options that required significantly more troops, Obama finally crafted his own strategy, dictating a classified six-page "terms sheet" that sought to limit U.S. involvement, Woodward reports in "Obama's Wars," to be released on Monday. (The Washington Post will print excerpts of Woodward's book beginning Monday on the Web, mobile and print editions.)

According to Woodward's meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

"This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. "Everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room."

Obama rejected the military's request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. "I'm not doing 10 years," he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. "I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars."

Woodward's book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger."
In the end, Obama came up with his own plan to bring the troops down to 30,000 which was 10,000 less than what the generals recommended, but more than what Biden wanted.

Now, he's done it again with his decision that we should drop the number of U.S. troop in Iraq down to 3,000 from the 45,000 there now. And needless to say, that isn't what the officers on the ground are recommending.
Senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta....Currently, about 45,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq. The generals on the ground had requested a reduced number of troops remaining in Iraq at the end of the year, but there was major pushback about "the cost and the political optics" of keeping that many in Iraq. The military's troop-level request was then reduced to 10,000.

Commanders said they could possibly make that work "in extremis," in other words, meaning they would be pushing it to make that number work security-wise and manpower-wise.

Now, sources confirm that the administration has pushed the Pentagon to cut the number even lower, and commanders are concerned for the safety of the U.S. troops who would remain there.

"We can't secure everybody with only 3,000 on the ground nor can we do what we need to with the Iraqis," one source said. Another source said the actual total could be as high as 5,000 when additional support personnel are included.

A senior military official said by reducing the number of troops to 3,000, the White House has effectively reduced the mission to training only.
This is a totally political decision rather than a military decision. He wants to have the numbers down and the expenses down so that he can start the election year bragging about how he's brought the numbers down. But he is endangering the troops that we have there with such a small number. He's risking giving back what we have gained in Iraq and having it return to sectarian violence and Iranian influence because he wants to make a splash with the left-wing of his party in an election year.

Think of this, he is planning to have less than one-tenth of the numbers of troops in Iraq that we presently have in South Korea which is now at 37,500 including all personnel. We have close to 80,000 in Europe. Are the military needs in Iraq so much more less than what they are in South Korea or Europe?

Somehow he thinks he knows more than the commanders on the ground about what is the minimum necessary to keep what we have achieved there.