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Petraeous: The Man Who Paid Enemies and Then Cut Them OffTim King Salem-News.com
There is very little reason to believe that a war can be won in Afghanistan. There is no history of these people ever being defeated in the end.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Army General Stanley McChrystal has been in command of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, since June 15, 2009.
His post ended fairly abruptly Wednesday, over remarks he made about Vice President Joe Biden in a Rolling Stone article. It went over very badly with the Obama Administration. The President dismissed Gen. McCrystal from his top level assignment.
Obama says his choice to replace Gen. McCrystal, is General David Petraeus. The post is temporarily in the hands of British Lieutenant General Sir Nicholas "Nick" Parker.
People associate the name of Gen. David Petraeus with success in Iraq. That in and of itself, is one of the American society's single biggest mistakes. It is a factual error to refer to "the surge" as some type of positive element in the war, without the stipulation; 'very temporary'.
Don't get me wrong; the Iraq Surge worked while it lasted. People became safer because the U.S. began paying Sunni militia, many of whom had been enemies of the US earlier in the war. It just didn't last long enough, and there were no plans to continue the progress.
Many Iraqi people died as a result.
The program left massive walls in Baghdad dividing Shi'ite and Sunni neighborhoods. They had never been divided this way; Iraqi citizens had never been forced to declare their religious sect and have it listed on their identification cards. This was the U.S. gift to Iraq so heavily touted by the Bush administration and the American media, but not in such terms.
I was in Iraq when the surge ended. I talked to the men who comprised the 'Sons of Iraq' militias under the Sunni Awakening Councils as they were called. When Bush dissolved the Iraqi Army, he disbanded ranks of men who were career military. Under current rules, none of these veteran soldiers are allowed to serve; they are in their 30's and 40's and too old.
But the Sons of Iraq program gave these men an identity, a paycheck, $305 a man per month, to be on the U.S. team. They were elevated in society as members of the Sunni minority. They manned checkpoints with AK-47's and bright orange vests and they truly went a long way toward keeping the peace. In reality, as former insurgents, they were pretty good at spotting others.
The men who were members of the Sunni militias told me that they can make $200 from the insurgency, for firing a rocket at a U.S. base. (The one where I was staying no less).
The men I talked to told me they were loyal. U.S. soldiers told me they didn't suspect that some of the men were moonlighting for the other side, they knew they were, but it was never clear exactly who. By and large, most American soldiers and Marines that I spoke to in Iraq thought the Sons of Iraq were a good idea.
By paying former enemies to be on the American side, people started surviving in far greater numbers. But it all ended, and I was there to hear the Iraqis plead with the American soldiers to not end the Sons of Iraq 'CLC Checkpoints' as they were known.
If Petraeus does this again; develop a program to buy loyalty to the U.S. without plans to continue the process, whatever it is, then we are facing another huge problem that will only destabilize this region of the world worse than it already is.
At this point, it seems the United States is in a repeat of the Vietnam War, even more than Iraq. There is very little reason to believe that a war can be won in Afghanistan. There is no history of these people ever being defeated in the end. The United States had a chance to set things right after the Afghan Mujahideen defeated the biggest enemy in recent U.S. history; the Soviet Union itself, in 1989, but we Americans were too preoccupied, too unconcerned.
The American politicians didn't want to help Charlie Wilson after the war ended, they didn't want to dirty their hands with it. The warlords of Afghanistan, friends of the U.S. like Osama bin Laden and Ahmad Shah Massoud, did it for one billion dollars. Americans are in comparison, an extremely overfunded and ineffective force.
As far as Daivd Petraeus goes, I did have a unique opportunity to speak to several men who knew him well; they were U.S. Army aviators who were charged with flying the General around in a Cessna jet known as a 'white bird'. It is worth noting that these crewmen expressed only positive thoughts about the top general. Another journalist, Justin King, and I, had the chance to fly in his aircraft one day. Petraeus wasn't aboard, but it was still an interesting opportunity to gain personal insight about the man. In my heart I don't think he considered the end game with the Iraq Surge. He was given a hopeless situation by a President who started a war because he simply 'wanted to' in the opinion of many, creating a massive false information campaign to propel the opportunity. It is the lack of commitment and the failure to launch a sustainable program that I believe was the first and worst move in this story.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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