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Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)
Military leader

Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

A retired U.S. Army General, Montgomery Meigs has commanded U.S. and NATO forces overseas and is now President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.

Not Just Afghanistan

At some point in their tenure, most leaders face a changing environment, a new opportunity, or a crisis that demands new strategy and tactics. President Obama now faces such a challenge.

After chasing the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan into the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, we supported a corrupt and largely ineffective government. Large portions of the population do not see the American presence as one that will improve their lot. From 2002 to 2008 the war of choice in Iraq monopolized resources much-needed for our effort in Afghanistan. Despite the superb efforts of units we did have on the ground, the Taliban have regained territory and influence. Resurgent al-Qaeda and Taliban in the Tribal Areas have also become a threat to the government in Pakistan. Given this fact -- and Pakistan's nuclear capability and intense strategic rivalry with India -- a Pakistan destabilized from Afghanistan and its own Tribal Areas presents an unacceptable strategic prospect.

To make things worse, the American people understandably grow less supportive of the campaign in such a problematic, far-off place. Many fail to appreciate that Afghans we need to support our effort see U.S. timelines for withdrawal and force restrictions as indications that we will abandon them again as we did when the Soviets departed.

The president faces a relatively straightforward decision process, but one fiendishly hard to follow. The strategy he inherited had no achievable end state and no real set of concrete operational objectives to guide the actions of the inadequate force levels we employed. He must now understand the nature of the war we face and decide on the necessary strategic end state he wishes to achieve, the task that Clausewitz termed the "most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make."

After that executive decision is made, as in business, a dialogue with the commanders should take place. Too often in our political system, closed sessions with senior legislators and meetings of informal structures of the President's National Security advisors have decided these issues with little input from the field. Fortunately, our current leaders seem inclined not to repeat this pattern.

We now have from a very experienced and competent commander in General Stan McChrystal and a very cogent and detailed operational assessment of the realities and possibilities in Afghanistan. The president must measure that assessment against the end state and other strategic objectives he believes we must pursue.

Some sub-optimization will occur: Military resources, political will, and strategic intent never match up. Capricious strategic guidance and decisions to allocate forces incapable of achieving strategic objectives create the greatest frustrations for commanders in the field. Luckily, ongoing dialogue between National Command Authorities and senior commanders helps fill in the gaps in areas where the Commander-in-Chief does not or cannot give his commanders the guidance or resources they believe they need. This process allows commanders some needed forces and a degree of operational flexibility far beyond their political cost.

The president and his advisors face an additional complication. The effort to obtain passage of his reform of health care and the need to get the Afghanistan strategy right both demand time and energy from the same players. Events in the field mandate that we move quickly to decide on and implement the new strategy. As General McChrystal and others like Tony Cordesman have argued, the momentum of events in Afghanistan means that to succeed, we must decide soon and execute decisively. Resolving these competing demands and simultaneously providing effective solutions to both presents a kind of dilemma business leaders seldom face.

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

 |  September 24, 2009; 6:01 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I recall General Miegs from BiH having returned on a second tour. That said:

I worked SE Afghanistan through late 2003; as such, things have changed from worse to horrific since that time.

I am surprised few voice the comment of "responsibility" for this current situation.

The Bush people are totally responsible for the current situation because assets were taken to Iraq..the war that did not have to be.

Where were the assessments from the military command back then? Where were the commanders with candid comments on the situation? Where was the GOP and many Democrats during 2003 thru 2008 on the issue of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Keep in mind, the insurgents now maybe collectively called "Taliban"..or those who seek religious knowledge..but, most are local clan or tribal members who want the status quo..no involvement of the Kabul government. Others are simply thugs, thieves and foreign fighters from the "stan's" who want to kill westerners.

On the issue of Pakistan..they played the Bush people like "dummies" and profited greatly from the ineffective leadership of the US government during the Bush era.

I and no doubt many others only wish the faceless souls of those lost both in Iraq and Afghanistan visit Bush and Cheney each and every night of their collective lives..they are disgraceful and no doubt history will validated my previous comments.

SE Afghanistan/2003

Posted by: LTC-11A | September 25, 2009 4:50 AM
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When the puppet central government kahuna karzai is replaced by the likes of an Ataturk personality, only then will positive change begin to shape in Afghanistan. Power and leadership will rule the area, so far there has been a void.

Posted by: juke2 | September 24, 2009 11:12 PM
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"The US needs to form a real partnership with India, not one which is hostile to Pakistan (whatever that entity is), but one which acknowledges the importance of the largest democracy in the world. Encourage India to join the security council as a permanent member, and let it help you achieve stability in that critical region of the world.

Posted by: rohitcuny"

I disagree. The US needs to sign a bi-lateral security pact with India that is violently hostile to Pakistan and Pakistani interests.

Posted by: garrafa10 | September 24, 2009 7:27 PM
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This is like the movie Groundhog Day. Over and over we do the same thing, until we learn the lesson but it seems we never do. America is trapped by its own implicit and false assumptions. I used to blog on the reasons why this war in Afghanistan is so stupid, but I have realized that reason has nothing to do with it.

MacArthur had one thing right: avoid land wars in Asia.

Why are we so stupid? I really do not know. Maybe we are cursed. But is there anyone out there, ANYONE, who doesn't know how this movie will end? Afghanistan is a battle at the end of the world, at the graveyard of empires, for reasons that make sense only in some internal political context to us, with mission impossible shifting or unknown, with everything we are doing making the situation worse, all entirely counterproductive to our own best security interests. The more Pashtun we kill, the more they are radicalized, and thirst for revenge. And of course, the Pashtun do not regard the Durand Line; just how many Americans know or care to know what that may be?

Nominally, we fight in support of a government that is both totally corrupt and totally inept, which the common people despise. Our army is exhausted with repeated employments, and the PTSD damage to them will be immense. This it will end in defeat and withdrawal amid immense internal political turmoil, to no good end whatsoever. How the jingoes will shout, Who lost Afghanistan? As if we ever had Afghanistan in the first place!

All the careerist lackeys know it. Look at the faces of General McChrystal and Admiral Mullen. They both know it. But rather than resign and tell the truth, they will ask for more troops just like General Wastemoreland, because the only thing they are really loyal to is their careers. Hey, money for my retirement is at stake! My reputation! Fight all the way to Stalingrad! Victory is at hand, just a few more brigades!

This is really being a traitor in the truest sense of the concept. They are the ruin of the United States of America.

Too harsh? Mistaken? Wait and see.

Posted by: tarquinis1 | September 24, 2009 6:01 PM
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I served for a few months as liaison from one of the alphabet soup of three and four letter agencies to GEN Meigs when he was NATO commander in Sarajevo, and I must say it is good to see a leader of his stature weigh-in on the need to lead decisively. I hope the President listens and does not let domestic issues sideline his attention. He was elected to lead. He campaigned on winning the Afghanistan war; it's time to listen to his commanders and do what's necessary. War is too serious to be treated like other partisan issues. The President should back his commanders, and we should all back him for doing so.

Posted by: RobsonJV | September 24, 2009 2:53 PM
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The US policy in the MidEast is based on dividing the people of the region to conquer them. Just as the US armed both Iran and Iraq during their futile decades long war, the way it has armed and divided Gaza (Hamas) and West Bank (Fatah), Libya from Egypt, Sunni against Shia- it has forced the Pakistani government to attack the tribal areas and now complains about instability in that country?

akhtarman

Sunni and Shia are killing each other for 1500 years.

Posted by: aryansa | September 24, 2009 2:31 PM
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As long as US government wants to be willingly duped by Pakistan and as long as American news media continues to collude with US government in that endeavor, US policy in Afghanistan is doomed to fail especially since US recruited terrorist state of Pakistan to fight the very terrorism that Pakistan itself has created and nurtured. No wonder American people do NOT think that Afghan war is winnable and want to throw in the towel. US government and American news media do NOT want American people to know the truth - the facts about Pakistan’s involvement not just in 9/11 attacks or Pakistan’s creation and nurturing of Taliban/Al Qaeda axis but also Pakistan’s continuous duplicitous policies of ’running with the hare while hunting with the hounds’, both under military as well democratic governments there.

As much as he wanted to evade the facts, poor General McChrystal was forced to admit that
1. Most insurgent fighters are Afghans. They are directed by a small number of Afghan senior leaders based in Pakistan that work through an alternative political infrastructure in Afghanistan.
2. The Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) based in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is the No. 1 threat to US/NATO mission in Afghanistan. At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Mohammed Omar (Afghan Taliban Chief) announces his guidance and intent for the coming year.
3. Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's lSI. Al Qaeda and associated movements (AQAM) based in Pakistan channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers, and technical assistance into Afghanistan, and offer ideological motivation, training, and financial support.

Pakistan has never wavered from its original goal of reestablishing its writ in Afghanistan once US leaves. That is why Pakistani government continues to shelter Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and other members of the Afghan Taliban's inner Shura (council) who have been ensconced in the Quetta area ever since US threw them out of Afghanistan in 2001. Yet, US drones have targeted militants in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), but not the Afghan Taliban leadership operating with impunity from Baluchistan, planning daily attacks on US/NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. US ground-commando raids also have spared the Afghan Taliban's command-and-control network in Baluchistan.

Since Obama administration has decided to continue the Bush policy of coddling Pakistan, same fate awaits Obama’s billions that befell on Bush’s billions with Afghanistan becoming another Vietnam for US military.

Posted by: simplesimon33 | September 24, 2009 1:23 PM
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Exactly why should the US pay any money or expend any lives to occupy or transform Afghanistan? The 9/11 pepetrators were born in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, and the trained and conspired in the US and Europe. Osama, Zawahiri, and Omar are either in Pakistan or are so safely shielded we will never find them. The Taliban are very low budget and can regenerate at any time. An extensive US ground presence is quite costly and gives little security. Our only cost-effective solution is to rely on aerial drones and pay farmers to raise something besides opium.

Posted by: jkoch2 | September 24, 2009 12:36 PM
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It is time for the US to treat the Muslim world with dignity and respect- and stop trying to divide and conquer them, steal their oil and Convert them to fanatical 'Christianutty'- or get the hell out! The Muslim world can do very well for itself without a troublesome superpower trying to rip it apart!!!AKHTARAMAN
Are you being serious- The Muslim World demands respect, but fails to respect others- All the rulers of the Muslim world bowdown to Western powers for security- So MR Aman GET a FREAKIN GRIP on reality-

Posted by: saikir | September 24, 2009 12:25 PM
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unless we are willing to fight the war in afghanistan like the sri-lankans did when they took down the tamil tigers we have zero chance of successfully conducting military operations..we also could select the least odious thug from the northern alliance, and prop him up with lots and lots of guns, bullets and bribe money and turn a blind eye to the opium production..we would have to convince him to allow the less violent afghanis to operate a powerless, but politically correct central government..nothing else will work there..just like vietnam..just like the israeli-occupied territories..just like iraq..just like chechnya..

Posted by: w04equals666 | September 24, 2009 12:15 PM
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"the momentum of events in Afghanistan means that to succeed, we must decide soon and execute decisively."

Written like a true PowerPoint Ranger. Afghanistan, and the Taliban, aren't going anywhere quickly. This entirely false sense of urgency would only lead to a precipitous and probably wholly blunderous action for the sake of action. If we could "contain" the Soviet Union over the period of four decades, we should certainly be able to contain the Taliban for a year or two while we actually think through this Bush-created mess and determine a policy that actually has some chance of "success", however we end up defining that. I fear the concept of nation building in the legendary graveyard of empires may prove an irresistable siren call to some empire-minded jackasses. I, for one, would prefer we leave them to their own devices, with the threat of actual, total annihiltion should their 7th-century mindset spill across their border.

Posted by: Quatermass | September 24, 2009 11:26 AM
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The US complaining about the danger of instability in Pakistan is like the Russians complaining about the rise of smallpox among Chechens. It is complaining about a problem that it itself created.

The US policy in the MidEast is based on dividing the people of the region to conquer them. Just as the US armed both Iran and Iraq during their futile decades long war, the way it has armed and divided Gaza (Hamas) and West Bank (Fatah), Libya from Egypt, Sunni against Shia- it has forced the Pakistani government to attack the tribal areas and now complains about instability in that country?

When will the US realize that its attempts to divide and conquer, continue hypocritical policies (Iran no nukes, Israel have all the nukes you want), and its complete servitude to Israel and fanatical Evangelical Christians will only feed anger and resentment in the Muslim world- and not the wearing of "miniskirts" that it is worried about.

It is time for the US to treat the Muslim world with dignity and respect- and stop trying to divide and conquer them, steal their oil and Convert them to fanatical 'Christianutty'- or get the hell out! The Muslim world can do very well for itself without a troublesome superpower trying to rip it apart!!!

Posted by: akhtarman | September 24, 2009 10:09 AM
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All over the world, corruption is a fact of life. A capable leader must deal with it, that is to say, we cannot destroy it neither can we ignore it for a moment, nor pray for it to improve. We just have to deal with it, as we have to deal with traffic jams, gidlocks in DC

Posted by: kham1234 | September 24, 2009 9:04 AM
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For over fifty years, since vice president Nixon's trip to the Indian subcontinent, and the consequent formation of a "strategic partnership" with Pakistan, the US has coddled Pakistan, and treated India as a troublesome non-partner. The reason is that India has an actual democratic government and it is not possible to sit down with Indian generals over a beer and decide how things will be. In India, it is the voters who decide how things will be. The foolish policy of coddling Pakistan, followed for over fifty years, has now ended disastrously.

The US needs to form a real partnership with India, not one which is hostile to Pakistan (whatever that entity is), but one which acknowledges the importance of the largest democracy in the world. Encourage India to join the security council as a permanent member, and let it help you achieve stability in that critical region of the world.

Posted by: rohitcuny | September 24, 2009 8:52 AM
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General,
Strategic policy Vs. Strategic position?

Panama Canal,
Of course it would be "Bad Business" for the Cartels to take out the Canal, unless the U.S. really got serious on Illegal Drug traffic.

Taiwan Strait,
The problem you have there, Taiwan isn't going to fire a shot,and that position cannot be defended, from this side of the world. What have the "theorists" drawn up on the after effects of the sacrifice of those men and women, back in the U.S.?
And as always, any use of force against Taiwan would be bad for business.

That being said, we continue to expend people and resources on two wars, where we are fighting ideals and not position. Offensive Military Action is the wrong weapon in both cases. Sir.

For the record ,Sir, Afghanistan and it's tribal regions and strong Faith was there, before the U.S. was conceived, and will be there after she is gone.

Posted by: backspace1 | September 24, 2009 7:47 AM
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Sadly you do not address the central reason for the Muslim world's antipathy towards us namely our failure to obtain a just and fair resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Without this our very costly attempts to fight "terror" will continue to bankrupt our economy and land us with huge deficits. A fair resolution will make the Muslim world our fan and any remnants of Al Qaeda will wither on the vine.

Posted by: qualquan | September 24, 2009 7:32 AM
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Maybe my military officer knowledge has faded with time. I simply don't understand how the US can fight al-Qeada and the Taliban in Afghanistan if the enemy can simply run away to Pakistan for safe harbor to re-supply and regroup.

The Christian Oil Crusades are fraud and military socialism. Let Exxon Mobil pay Blackwater (or whatever it has become) to protect their own pipeline. The folly of spilling the blood of American troops pretending to "fight terrorism" in Afghanistan and ignoring Pakistan should not be beyond the comprehension of senior military officers - not even Huckabee/AIPAC ones.

We either need to nuke all Muslim countries or get out of the Middle East. Terrorism is harbored not just by Afghanistan and Iraq. It is harbored by other countries including our "ally" Saudi Arabia (who only tolerates the US because we kiss their a*$ because we are addicted to their oil).

Bring the troops home to protect America's borders including our seaports and airports. Spend the money saved on health-care if you even want to pretend the US is a "Christian Nation"

Posted by: coloradodog | September 24, 2009 7:24 AM
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