What’s next for the US war in Afghanistan?
Many are wondering how the switch from Gen. McChrystal to Gen. Petraeus will affect the policy and strategy in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration said the switch was only a change in command, not a change in policy.
“Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do,” said investigative journalist and RT Contributor Wayne Madsen.
He continued, “We’re already hearing that Gen Petraeus will change those rules of engagement to allow troops to have a lot more leeway and I think one of the downsides of that is we’re going to see a lot more civilian casualties. Petraeus certainly has a track record in Iraq of that, where he brought in a lot of questionable people.”
Madsen argued that Petraeus “takes a blind eye” to fraud and abuse, including abuse of civilians by American troops.
US troops complained about the level of restrictions under McChrystal. McChrystal’s strict rules were in place however to ensure civilian casualties were limited to aid in the nation-building efforts.
In Iraq, Petraeus increased the number of US contractors dramatically and the CIA has recently enlisted new contracts with the former Blackwater, now Xe. Madsen argues that this trend is likely to continue and that as the war evolves Petraeus will lay the ground work for a huge US contractor presence in Afghanistan.
The US Senate confirmation of Petraeus is expected to be swift since he is well liked by many in the congress. It is unlikely he will be challenged or heavily questioned about his plans for Afghanistan.
“Well we don’t have senators like we used to and we don’t have generals like we used to. Certainly Petraeus is no General Eisenhower,” said Madsen.
“The Senate has abrogated its responsibilities in these areas,” he said.
Madsen argues that Petraeus is the neo-conservatives’ general and that he likely has plans for Iran that McChrystal did not have. Some have even argued that Petraeus has plans to run for the US presidency.
Film-maker Danny Schechter would also agree that the change is not merely that of the commander-in-chief.
“They already begin to lose the word ‘withdraw’ and substitute [it with] the word ‘draw-down’, which is filled with much more ambiguity – not specific, not tied to any particular troop level. So they can be drawing down their troops for ten years, without necessarily withdrawing them,” says Danny Schechter. “[The military] want more money, they want more troops, they want endlessly more.”
“Nobody wants to be the guy that lost Afghanistan, especially not President Obama,” adds Mr. Schechter.
Attorney and former CIA officer Jack Rice argued that Petraeus is indeed likely to change policies in Afghanistan, including loosening the rules of engagement and adding to the overall number of US contractors on the ground.
Rice said that McChrystal’s policy of “courageous restraint” was designed to “deal with the insurgency itself.”
He argued that from the Afghan perspective collateral damage was seen as murder by American troops and that McChrystal’s strategy was designed to change that. Petraeus however will likely be more aggressive.
“The problem is that the more aggressive we become, the more those same people will die, the harder it is for the Afghan government and for the American to convince the Afghans we’re there for them,” said Rice.
The more aggressive the US becomes, the greater the Taliban can focus on turning the Afghan people against the United States and NATO, argued Rice.
“This is exactly what the Russians did; they went in with a scorched earth policy and destroyed everything in front of them. By the way, things didn’t play so well for the Russian either,” said Rice.
Obama has opted to continue with the same concepts as former President George W. Bush. He has continued on the same path with the utilization of contractors.
“We have more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than we have actual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines combined,” said Rice.
He continued, explaining that because Petraeus achieved some success in Iraq, it is not reason to assume he will be successful in Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan are not interchangeable. They are different geographically, culturally, and governmentally, he argued.
“To simply say what we did in Iraq will work in Afghanistan is absolutely false,” said Rice. “We will not win this war, we truly won’t.”
Iraq Veteran and anti-war activist Josh Stieber said that Petraeus will indeed be more aggressive in Afghanistan and that a more aggressive policy is counterproductive to the overall mission of nation-building.
Some believe Petraeus could possibly push back the withdraw date and seek additional troops. Stieber expressed hope that Obama would hold to the withdraw timetable and get out of Afghanistan to bring a close to the violence.