ChrisWeigant.com

The Forgotten War

[ Posted Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 – 15:39 PDT ]

No so very long ago, Afghanistan was known as "the forgotten war." While America's attention was largely focused on Baghdad, many forgot our military was even in another country. But these days, Afghanistan is hard to miss in the headlines. Rumors are swirling over what President Obama will do there -- increase American troops, draw down troops, keep the same troops (it depends on which headlines you read) -- and how he will change our strategy and goals. Talk of "failure" is rampant, except that now it is not coming from the anti-war crowd, but instead from the Pentagon. President Obama needs to get out front on this issue, by beginning to talk about our newly-forgotten war: Iraq.

If you're scratching your head over that last statement, allow me to explain. Obama is going to face some criticism over Afghanistan, no matter what he says or decides on the issue. The criticism will come from different directions, depending on what he does decide, but it will come nonetheless. If he decides to boost troops (the media really should say "boost troops further than Obama's already boosted them," but they usually omit that part), then he will face heavy skepticism from anti-war Democrats, and possibly from some budget-conscious centrists or Republicans. If Obama decides to pull troops out, he will face more than a little bit of pushback from Republicans. If he decides to keep everything the same, he'll likely face pushback from everyone, including the Pentagon. No matter what course Obama charts, there are going to be people convinced it is the wrong one, you can bet on that.

Which is why Obama needs to start talking about Iraq in the midst of this debate. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it's not. Iraq and Afghanistan are tied together by the thread (more than a thread, but that's how the metaphor bounces, so to speak) of the American military. We have troops in both places. Lots of troops. Troop decisions in one place affect the ability to make decisions in the other. A "zero-sum" situation, if you will.

And President Obama needs to announce a troop withdrawal framework for 2010 in Iraq. This will change the entire discussion about troops and about Afghanistan, in several significant ways. For the sake of discussion, let's say Obama announces that 25,000 or 30,000 more American troops will be heading to Afghanistan. But at the same time, he announces that next year we will begin pulling out 70,000 troops from Iraq in a safe and coordinated manner. This muddies the waters, no matter where you stand on Afghanistan. Those who want all of America's troops home (next week, preferably) will criticize Obama for his Afghanistan strategy, while praising his moves on Iraq. And vice-versa, for those on the other side of the argument.

The whole raging debate over the "timetable for withdrawal" which took place during the campaign is largely over. President George W. Bush signed just such a timeline, right before he left office. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki got pretty much everything he wanted out of this agreement, including a hard deadline (the end of 2011) for all U.S. troops to be out of his country. Note that that says all troops, and not "combat" troops. That is the deadline for our withdrawal. That is the timetable. We have met the first milestone on this timetable, when we pulled all of our troops out of Iraqi cities at the beginning of the summer.

But we still really haven't started to leave, yet. A few thousand troops got rotated out, but we still have somewhere around 130,000 soldiers in the country -- around twice what we currently have in Afghanistan. Obama, during the campaign, liked to talk about withdrawing a few thousand of these troops "every month or so" after he took office. This, to a large part, has not begun. The stated reason is to provide security for the upcoming Iraqi national elections due to take place at the end of this year.

Assuming this election is relatively peaceful (which may be a premature assumption, I admit), then once it is over it will be time for those soldiers to start packing up the old kit bag and returning home.

Now, much was made during the election about a "precipitous timetable for withdrawal," but anyone in their right mind knows that this will be a gigantic operation, involving enormous numbers not just of men and women but also of all the hardware involved as well. Decisions will have to be made as to what vehicles and other equipment will be brought back home, what will be left for the Iraqis to use, and what is cheaper to destroy or junk rather than spend money shipping it home. In other words, it will involve a lot of planning.

That planning needs to be talked about before it happens. And the end of the year is right around the corner. Meaning the time to talk about it is now. President Obama should take the reins of this horse and begin this conversation. This doesn't mean, of course, that he is going to have a fully-developed plan to talk about right away. But he can start becoming a lot more specific about what he intends to do about Iraq in the next two years. When asked about Iraq recently, he merely pointed out "we have to be out by the end of 2011," but didn't take it any further.

Obama would do himself a world of good politically if he started talking in much more concrete terms about how this pullout will be achieved. Obama should begin by saying something like the following:

"Our goal -- which could change if the situation on the ground changes, of course -- our goal is to bring 70,000 troops home over the course of the next year. I will be speaking with the Pentagon about coming up with a plan to safely withdraw five or six thousand soldiers each month next year. I think that pace is realistic, and that security can be maintained while hitting that pace. We need to have all our troops out in a little over two years, so we simply must begin planning for it now in order to have a timely and safe withdrawal."

Of course, the actual number can be different (I just picked 70,000 randomly), as long as it has a lot of zeros in it. If Obama tossed this out into the media shark pit, the conversation on troop levels would change overnight. Instead of focusing solely on Afghanistan (after largely ignoring it for years), the discussion would shift to include what is in danger of being labeled our "newly-forgotten war" in Iraq. This introduces nuance to the argument of where best to station American military personnel. It would also give Obama's base a much-needed boost, in fulfilling campaign promises made on the subject. He's already fulfilled one campaign promise on Afghanistan by almost doubling our troop presence there since he came to office. He may be ready to increase this level even further (again, depending on which headlines you believe). So it's not like he's being inconsistent on Afghanistan.

But he should also start fulfilling his promises on withdrawing our troops from Iraq. It's time, Mr. President, to start bringing our troops home. From one war, at least.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

18 Comments on “The Forgotten War”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    The problem with Obama trying to drag Iraq into the equation is that there will be cries and accusations of, "Oh here we go again, Obama is trying to lay the blame for everything on Bush.."

    Now, I am not saying that's fair or right. Just predicting what the response will be from the Anti-Obama types...

    On another note....

    But he should also start fulfilling his promises on withdrawing our troops from Iraq. It's time, Mr. President, to start bringing our troops home. From one war, at least.

    He can't... It's not tactically feasible to do so. If Obama were to make good on his campaign promise, he runs the risk of losing TWO wars, one of which was all but won when he started.

    These are the facts of life that the Left usually fails to understand or acknowledge.

    Enemy forces usually do not abide by a candidate's campaign forces...

    Michale.....

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Enemy forces usually do not abide by a candidate's campaign forces…

    Jeeezus H Creest!!!

    Proofread, Michale!!! Proofread!!! :^/

    That should read...

    Enemy forces usually do not abide by a candidate's campaign promises

    I am an agnostic, dyslexic insomniac...

    I lie awake at night, wondering if there's a DOG.

    Michale.....

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    If only Iraq was just about planning for a withdrawal of US forces by 2011. There had better be a whole lot more planning going on for what US forces will be leaving behind.

    No worries, though...I believe the Vice President has this file firmly under control. Though I wouldn't expect him to be talking to the press about these plans...its just not worth the headache. Maybe he'll pen an op-ed, or something, for the rest of us who actually have a clue.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Actually, Biden's Afghanistan Plan is already floating around the pundit circuit.

    Unfortunately, it's a bad plan that reflects a civilian's thinking of what combat and warfare is.

    Or, more accurately, it's a plan based on limited warfare to achieve a limited objective.

    Such a plan is unworkable in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Look, let's face the facts. A plan has already been developed and it has already been PROVEN to work against the kind of warfare being faced in Afghanistan..

    The **ONLY** problem with the plan is that it was developed under Bush's watch and, by implementing it in Afghanistan, it would show the world that Bush did, in fact, have the right idea..

    And the Democrat leadership would rather see hundreds and/or thousands of more American casualties in Afghanistan before they would ever, EVER, give Bush credit for anything.

    Michale.....

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You feeling OK, Michale?

    The pundit circle? Don't make me laugh.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    You wouldn’t, by any chance, have a link for the ‘Biden Afghanistan Plan’ , would you? Because, I’d like to read about it.

    And, you're going to have to explain to me how it ‘reflects a civilian’s thinking of what combat and warfare is’?

    Do you actually believe that the US and NATO can muster enough troops, even if they wanted to, to engage in a successful COIN strategy in Afghanistan? And, if so, how is this strategy affected by the fact that the Kabul government - regardless of which personality eventually heads it up - has little legitimacy, much less authority that extends beyond greater Kabul.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information but there is no evidence that I am aware of to suggest that ANY plan is working in Afghanistan. In fact, it may be true that the Bush administration so thoroughly screwed up the Afghan theatre that NO plan has any hope of achieving success there, limited or otherwise.

  7. [7] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Apologies to A. A. Milne

    Prince George was not a good man —
    And in his latter days,
    World leaders did not shake his hand,
    Much to his amaze.
    At G-20 meetings,
    When lining up on stage,
    They whispered of his ruined brand,
    And did not offer up their hands —
    They left Prince George a one-man band,
    Turning gray with age.

    Prince George was not a good man,
    And a lame old duck was he.
    On Oval Office afternoons,
    No one came round to see.
    And, round about November,
    Regulations in his queue
    Meant as gifts to backers past,
    Had missed the deadline at the last,
    The end had come so very fast,
    And rule of law renewed.

    Prince George was not a good man,
    Yet had his hopes and fears.
    The war he'd launched was endless now
    For years and years and years.
    But two months before Christmas,
    While Americans did shout,
    And happy songs of hope were sung
    While worldwide, bells readied to be rung,
    George stole away upstairs and hung
    A bill for fiscal bailing-out.

    Prince George was not a good man,
    He liked his long vacations;
    Alone he planned a new scheme out
    While venting his frustrations.
    He pushed his team to bargain
    And negotiate in true
    With Maliki and Talabani,
    To divvy up that oil money,
    And create from a process quite funny
    A legacy for W.

    “Please fill my coffers,
    And my new library;
    I think a tour of speaking
    Would surely come in handy;
    I don’t mind oil-stock,
    And secretive renditions!
    And I SHOULD like to leave my staff
    In permanent positions.
    And, oh! Father Christmas, for my legacy,
    Bring me a big, red Iraq war victory!”

    Prince George was not a good man —
    Riding fiscal crisis out,
    He gat him to his ranch again,
    There to pace and pout.
    Election night he lay there,
    Praying hope would lose to fear.
    “I think McCain's a-surging now,
    (Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
    “He’ll win Ohio, anyhow —
    Just like I have for years.

    “Forget about the coffers,
    And forget about libraries;
    I’m sure a tour of speaking
    Would bore me, by my theory;
    I don’t need oil-stock,
    I don’t want rendition,
    And I HAVE put my loyal staff
    In permanent positions.
    But, oh! Father Christmas, if I'm to have a legacy,
    Bring me a big, red Iraq-war victory!”

    Prince George was not a good man —
    Next morning when the sun
    Rose up to tell a waiting world
    Obama had it won,
    And people seized each other,
    And laughed and danced with glee,
    For hope had many hearts endeared,
    Change more potent than vile smears,
    Prince George said grimly: “As I feared,
    Nothing for my legacy!”

    “I did want coffers,
    And a big library;
    I know a tour of speaking
    Would've come in handy;
    I do love oil-stock,
    I did love rendition.
    I haven’t got a loyal staff —
    In any old position.
    And, oh! if Father Christmas cared for my legacy,
    He would have brought Iraq war victory!”

    Prince George stood by the window,
    And there did glumly meet
    The happy crowds of boys and girls
    Celebrating in the street.
    A while he stood there watching,
    And envying them still...
    When through the window big and red
    There hurtled by his royal head,
    And bounced and fell upon the bed,
    The Iraqi SOFA bill!

    AND OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,
    YOU'VE ENDED OUR BEREAVEMENT...
    BY WRINGING AT LAST,
    FROM OUT OF GEORGE:
    A STATUS OF FORCES
    AGREEMENT!

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    You wouldn’t, by any chance, have a link for the ‘Biden Afghanistan Plan’ , would you? Because, I’d like to read about it.

    For you, Liz?? Anything... :D

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/23/obama-considers-dramatica_n_295788.html

    {Interesting side note here. I have noticed lately that, when I Cut-N-Paste a blurb from a site it automagically places the HTML link immediately after the PASTE.. A real time saver and pretty kewl.. :D}

    And, you're going to have to explain to me how it ‘reflects a civilian’s thinking of what combat and warfare is’?

    Civilians (at least those civilians who are unaccustomed to what real combat is all about) tend to micro-manage things. They concentrate on one aspect of the entire theater and think, "THAT is the problem that, if solved, will win the whole war."

    It's been my experience in 2+ decades as a soldier and civilian contractor, that when one concentrates on only one aspect of TheOps, they find other aspects get rammed up their arse.

    For example, Biden's plan for directing ForceOps against Taliban and AQ directly would totally ignore the "hearts and minds" aspects. In other words, the more we target Taliban and AQ forces, the more those forces will target Afghan civilians.

    We need boots on the ground. Not only to take the war to the Tals and AQ but to also protect the civilians from the inevitable retaliation..

    Biden's plan addresses A and totally ignores B.

    As I said above, the plan worked in Iraq.. Why doesn't the Obama administration apply the same proven strategy to Afghanistan??

    Answer: Because it confirms the validity of the "Bush Doctrine" and Dems would have an apoplectic fit!

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information but there is no evidence that I am aware of to suggest that ANY plan is working in Afghanistan. In fact, it may be true that the Bush administration so thoroughly screwed up the Afghan theatre that NO plan has any hope of achieving success there, limited or otherwise.

    Sorry, Afghanistan is Obama's war now. No amount of Bush bashing (Ink's cute little prose notwithstanding) will change the fact that Obama owns Afghanistan..

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since I read Ink's prose, I decided to contact my own inner muse and render a little diddy myself. :D

    Mm, mmm, mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    He said that all must lend a hand
    To make this country safe again
    Mmm, mmm, mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    He said that we must have no fear
    Fight terrorists there so they don't come here.
    Mmm, mmm, mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    He said that we must take a stand
    The Patriot Act and the MCA will give us our chance.
    Mmm, mmm, mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    He said red, yellow, black or white
    All are in the terrorists' sight
    Mmm, mmm, mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    Yes!
    Mmm, mmm,mm!
    George Dubya Bush

    This can be taught to all our school children... I am absolutely SURE that there is NO ONE here who could POSSIBLY object to this indoctrination... er.. I mean, "sing a long"....

    Right???

    Michale.....

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    I was afraid you would provide me with a link like that. It's not worth the internet space it fills up, so to speak. I haven't found one media link that is...so far. But, I remain...hopeful...

    The irony of ironies is that President Bush might have left a legacy he could be somewhat proud of if he had only listened to Joe Biden and implemented the Biden strategy for promoting a sustainable political settlement in Iraq instead of sabotaging it.

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    I was afraid you would provide me with a link like that. It's not worth the internet space it fills up, so to speak. I haven't found one media link that is…so far. But, I remain…hopeful…

    It's a link to NY Time via HuffPo??

    I am at a loss to understand why the link is the problem?

    Do you dispute the claim that Biden put forth the plan?

    Or do you dispute the claim of the utter ridiculousness of the plan, from a military point of view??

    The irony of ironies is that President Bush might have left a legacy he could be somewhat proud of if he had only listened to Joe Biden and implemented the Biden strategy for promoting a sustainable political settlement in Iraq instead of sabotaging it.

    If, by "sustainable political settlement in Iraq" you mean splitting up the country... I doubt that would have been "sustainable" in any way, shape or form.

    Imagine Biden overseeing the US Civil war and saying, "The best plan is to let the Confederacy secede and give the West to Mexico" and you'll get the idea of what "sustainability" means..

    Michale....

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    But I am hurt you have no comment on my little classroom diddy... :D

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Why even bother with Afghanistan...

    Iran is going to have nukes long before we throw in the towel in Afghanistan..

    Several months ago Obama, with his 'get tough' attitude, told Iran they have until September to show substancial concessions in their nuke program.

    Iran's response...???? "UP YOURS"

    Obama's and the UN's response to Iran??

    "Awww, shucks... We'll give you another 3 months to think about things..."

    But why should Iran give up their nukes?? They see North Korea blowing up nukes and launching missiles left and right and the Obama response??

    "Awww shucks.. OK, we'll sit down and talk about what we can give ya'all..."

    It's becoming clearer to me that voting Obama into office might have been the biggest mistake ever made by America....

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's interesting to contrast the current alleged Left Wing Protests in Pittsburgh with the 9/12 alleged Right Wing Protests.

    At the 9/12 there was singing and dancing. Not one arrest made, nor one oz of pepper spray released..

    Contrast that with the G-20 protests.. Millions of dollars in property damage. Dozens arrested. Many hurt.

    So, this begs the question..

    Who are the patriots and who are the scumbags???

    Michale.....

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Allow me to explain something fundamental about the media/blogosphere coverage of Joe Biden. The vast majority of the media and blogosphere fail to understand a word Biden says...they are simply not smart enough.

    And, so...your link is a problem. Furthermore, if Vice President Biden has a “plan for Afghanistan” then he has yet to publically articulate it. And, if he does so through the media, then you can bet the farm that the media will so misrepresent it as to make it unrecognizable.

    Finally, by “sustainable political settlement in Iraq” I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT MEAN SPLITTING UP THE COUNTRY...AM I MAKING MYSELF CLEAR? (there, I feel much better now)

    That you would think, for a New York second, that the Biden strategy for promoting a sustainable political settlement in Iraq would have anything remotely to do with splitting up the country just proves my point about the media and blogosphere. Thank-you. :)

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Hmmmmmmm

    Let me get this straight.

    We're supposed to ignore anything from the "media and blogosphere" regarding information about Joe Biden...

    This begs the question.

    Short of a "MISERY" moment, how are we supposed to learn anything about Joe Biden??

    And, while YOU do not mean splitting up the country of Iraq is a "sustainable political settlement", Biden certainly meant that when he was in the Senate.

    Michale.....

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    The best way to learn about Joe Biden is to listen to Joe Biden.

    If you did that, then you would know that his strategy for promoting a sustainable political settlement in Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with partition or splitting the country up...despite what C-span had to say about it!

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    If you’re interested in learning more about Joe Biden, then this is good place to start...

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-biden/setting-the-record-straig_4_b_66790.html

    In fact, I would recommend reading all of his blogs at the Huffington Post...but, if I were you, I’d skip all of the comments. Sigh.

    And, here is a link for the actual amendment on federalism in Iraq that Senator Biden introduced in the fall of 2007. President Bush could have done himself, not to mention the rest of us, a big favour by working with Biden on this but, instead, he chose to sabotage it.

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.CON.RES.37:

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