TROUBLE IN AFGHANISTAN - AT 7:47 A.M. ET: One of the big stories of the week was the public, and somewhat graceless dismissal of the American commander in Afghanistan, and his replacement by another officer. This may not go smoothly. We got this exclusive report from a highly qualified observer traveling in Afghanistan:
The most interesting aspect is how it will be received by NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). Today, they are the warfighting command on the ground. The US is a force provider, but the operational chain-of-command in ISAF does not run to Washington. It runs to Brussels. How will ISAF receive having its commander suddenly changed and having a new US three-star general thrust upon them? They already have a three-star deputy general.
Obama was supposed to be the leader who would coordinate and consult and cooperate more. This move will be seen as typical American pushiness by our NATO allies.
The outgoing commander...
--has been hampered from the beginning by the realities of coalition warfare. Not all of our allies come with the same goals, the same rules of engagement, the same willingness to take risks in pursuit of objectives, the same willingness to get off their bases and get amongst the people.
--does not have a special forces background; Afghanistan has been
perceived as a special forces fight.
--may have been seen as too close to NATO and too anxious to preserve the coalition at the expense of "bold new moves." For example, the push to make this an Afghanistan-Pakistan theater may be resisted by some of our NATO brethren.
--was a key leader in the very successful initial invasion of Iraq;
may have been tainted as a "Bush guy."
--was unfortunate to enough to be in place when the the mantra of
"change" started being chanted.
That all said, I must say that much of the emerging plan is on target:
appropriately resourced, aggressive, conditions-based, not entirely
dependent on military force (though this will be trickiest to pull
off) and not unrealistic in its goals for the Afghan government.
COMMENT: This is increasingly Obama's war. It's his commander who's now in charge. Obama and his vast political apparatus can no longer blame it on Bush.
May 14, 2009