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As commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus was able to elbow the substantive intelligence analysts in Washington off to the sidelines. What might those analysts have said about LOCS, or about the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We don't know for sure, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (and, better still, about Vietnam) would have rolled their eyes and wished Gen. Westmoreland -- oops, I mean Petraeus -- good luck.
As for winning hearts and minds, it was Petraeus who shocked Afghan President Hamid Karzai's aides by claiming that Afghan parents might have burned their own children in order to blame the casualties on U.S. military operations.
And the same Petraeus eagerly increased the incredibly myopic drone strikes in Pakistan, killing thousands of civilian "militants" and creating thousands more to contend with in the "long war" now alienating a nuclear-armed country of 185 million people.
If, by now, you get the idea that I think David Petraeus is a charlatan (and I am not referring to sexual escapades), you would be correct. The next question, however, is his replacement and whether the policies will change.
Mr. President, with the mandate you have just won, you have a golden chance to reverse the March of Folly in Afghanistan. You can select a person with a proven record of integrity and courage to speak truth, without fear or favor, and with savvy and experience in matters of State and Defense.
There are still some very good people with integrity and courage around -- former Ambassador Chas Freeman would be an excellent candidate. Go ahead, Mr. President. Show that you can stand up to the Israel lobby that succeeded in getting Freeman ousted on March 10, 2009, after just six hours on the job as Director of the National Intelligence Council.
And there are still some genuine experts around to help you enlist Afghanistan's neighbors in an effort to ease U.S. troop withdrawal well before the 2014 deadline. The faux experts -- the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere -- have had their chance. For God's sake, take away their White House visiting badges at once.
Create White House badges for genuine experts like former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt. Col., USA, ret.). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in "long wars"; they will tell you the truth; all you need do is listen.
Do NOT listen this time to the likes of your counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, a former CIA functionary who was staff director for CIA Director George "slam-dunk" Tenet. Brennan will probably push for you to nominate Petraeus's deputy and now Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who did the same dirty work for Tenet that Brennan did.
Morell is even more likely to take his cues from Brennan and tell you what he and Brennan want you to hear. At best, Morell is likely to let things drift until you move on Petraeus's replacement. And this is no time for drift.
There is absolutely no reason to prolong the agony in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Doubling down on Afghanistan might have seemed a smart political move at the time, but you now should face the fact that it was a major blunder. Troops out now!
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