In Iraq, getting the right strategy was just as important as the surge in personnel, the general said. “The real key in Iraq was the surge of ideas, not just the surge of troops,” Petraeus said. “Yes, the 30,000 additional troops that ended up being deployed during the surge enabled us to … implement time-honored counterinsurgency concepts more effectively and more rapidly than we could have.” ......When the Iraq and Afghan strategies were first formulated in this administration in March, he said, the process was rushed. The current process has allowed Obama to engage in forming the process in a way he did not before, the general said.
“There have been very good debates, very good discussion,” he said. “This is the kind of intellectual discourse you want. It does sharpen your thinking. It does expose differences of opinion. It helps you come to grips with the assumptions.”
The president has committed an enormous amount of time to the process, and it is an appropriate use of his time, Petraeus said. “This decision will be forthcoming pretty soon, perhaps when he comes back from the Asia trip, and then we will all press forward,” he said. “And I think we will do so with enormous benefit from having had these discussions.”
American, NATO and Afghan officials recognize the dangers of corruption in Afghanistan. Petraeus said Afghan President Hamid Karzai has to set the tone, and he looks forward to Karzai’s inaugural speech on Nov. 19.
“There are several subjects in that address that we look forward to hearing: his plans to deal with corruption, to confront the issues that have to do with legitimacy of governance and how to achieve that in the eyes of the people to be seen as serving the people,” Petraeus said. Karzai also will make a statement with the men and women he asks to be in the government, the general added.
He seemingly is unwilling to buy a pig in a poke from any of the players — not from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, who wants another 40,000 to 80,000 American troops; not from his own national security wizards who've proffered four different pigs in four different pokes; not from Vice President Joe Biden, who wants to leave the fight to Special Forces and unmanned Predators.
The word is that none of the options contains what the president wants to see — an estimate of how many more years beyond the eight already invested would be needed and an exit strategy.
Simple question and a vital requirement: How much longer will it take, and how do we get out when that time is up?
Let's call that Military Planning 101 and, like the president, we're left to ponder why that basic first step in committing a nation and its military and its treasury to a war wasn't taken before now and was missing from all the alternatives offered at this critical junction in a war that's now in its ninth year?
The previous president's strategy was simple: Stay the course in Afghanistan, but divert the resources to Iraq.
What McChrystal and his Pentagon overlords wanted was a blank check for Afghanistan, an open-ended commitment of years, troops and money.
The military request on the table, if rubber-stamped as they'd hoped, would bring the number of American troops from today's 70,000 to well over 100,000. What experience teaches is that they'd be back next spring or summer asking for another 50,000 or 75,000. And again next fall.
When was the last time you heard a military commander ask for fewer troops and less money?
So this president is due a polite round of applause for not letting the generals stampede him into a swift, decisive and totally wrong decision to give them what they want.