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How We Got to Zero: General Eikenberry's Hail Mary

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Michael Collins

U.S. Afghan Envoy Urges Caution on Troop Increase

"WASHINGTON -- The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, who once served as the top American military commander there, has expressed in writing his reservations about deploying additional troops to the country, three senior American officials said Wednesday.

"The position of the ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, puts him in stark opposition to the current American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has asked for 40,000 more troops. New York Times, Nov. 11

This isn't just any envoy. General Karl Eikenberry has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, the second as head of the Combined Forces Command. After the second Afghan tour, Eikenberry was Chairman of the NATO Joint Military Committee. He's a West Point graduate with advanced degrees from Harvard and Stanford and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

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General McChrystal has asked for 50,000 troops in early October. By October 28, the president was said to favor a "McChrystal light" number as low as 15,000. On Nov. 7, just four days before Eikenberry's statement, McClatchy Newspapers put Obama's preferred number at 30,000. At this moment, the president is reported have rejected all of the troop increases on the table, according to Associated Press at 12:02 am EDT, today, November 12.

How did we get from McChrystal's request for 50,000 troop requests in early October to Eikenberry's "written reservations about deploying additional troops" just days before President Obama's planned decision?

The only thing we know for sure is that Eikenberry's statement was no accident. Clearly, there is dissent in the Pentagon and White House as evidenced by this publicly reported assessment by a serving ambassador and distinguished officer. Of interest, on troop levels, the Eikenberry statement agrees with the much criticized assessment of Vice President Joe Biden on made after a trip to Afghanistan

Two Paths - Obama's Hedge

When General Stanley McChrystal was appointed to command combined forces in Afghanistan, he put together his own team for the long haul:

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"General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan." New York Times, June 10

Little was know of the five year of secret commando work in the two nations until a Seymour Hersh gave a speech at the University of Minnesota on U.S. Intelligence policies. Hersh said:

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it's called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. " Congress has no oversight of it. It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on." MinnesotaPost.Com March 11

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well-laid out article.thank you.... by Joan Brunwasser on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 9:10:00 AM
Longer than I wanted but it was getting late then ... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 11:24:00 PM
Obama inherited two unnecessary and unpopular wars... by Carol Wolman on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 10:55:19 AM
I think Obama played this well, structurally, and ... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 11:18:14 AM
GWB and his buddies played hardball criminal style... by Jason Paz on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 1:54:53 PM
Patraeus was the last to go down to Obama. I'd rea... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 11:25:39 PM
AND, I hate to count my chickens before they are h... by shirley reese on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 9:53:35 PM
General, no Ambassador Eikenberry is the real hero... by Michael Collins on Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 11:33:40 PM