Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and numerous other Democratic political leaders chastised General David Petraeus during his Iraq surge testimony in September 2007. A full-page placed by MoveOn.org in The New York Times labeled General Petraeus "General Betray Us" and was not condemned by any of them.
Now President Obama has latched on to Gen. Petraeus as a lifeline to save his Afghanistan war strategy. What a paradox. A better name for Obama's new view of Gen. Petraeus might be "General Save Us." Will Gen. Petraeus be able to pull off this challenge with the current Counterinsurgency (COIN) Strategy and the dangerous Rules of Engagement (ROE) that General McCrystal had instituted in his year in his role as ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander? Unfortunately, I don't think so. That is, unless both the strategy is changed and the rules of engagement are dramatically altered and new leadership is provided to both the Defense and State departments.
First to the State Department: Ambassadors Eikenberry and Holbrooke have long outlived their effectiveness. They are a drag on success in this difficult war. They must go.
Next, to the Department of Defense: This a war is not an "Overseas Contigency Operation (OCO)" as President Obama’s administration calls it. We have lost 89 ISAF soldiers and 53 US soldiers this month with 2 days left to go.
Mr. President, we are in a violent war against radical Islam and your denial of this fact will ensure our defeat.
You and your administration cannot even define the ideology we are fighting against. John Brennan, your National Security adviser for counterterrorism, thinks "jihad" means "holy struggle" not a war against infidels.
Your Secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have accepted these ridiculous new definitions of the threat.
This means you, and your national security leadership team are clueless about how to defeat this violent threat against America.
They must all go and you must change your senseless strategy.
How can we expect General Petraeus to defeat the Taliban when he does not have a leadership team supporting him the way the Bush administration's team did during the surge in Iraq?
That surge worked because we had a president who was intractable in telling the Joint Chiefs and General Casey -- our commander in Iraq -- that he wanted victory not a tie even though they all had resisted the surge. His determined leadership throughout the surge while facing fierce political pressure from the left, the mainstream media and the Democratic Party was the most intense this nation has ever seen. His leadership prevailed.
Gen. Petraeus' COIN strategy in Iraq worked because he was determined to win and support his forces in the field by destroying Al Qaeda -- not by counting how many schools we had built and how many civilian causalities there were. Winning hearts and minds was an adjunct to destroying the enemy and then the hearts and minds followed.
General McChrystal got this backwards and implemented the rules of engagment that are killing American soldiers today.
This is unacceptable. The rules must be changed to ensure that our American and ISAF troops are protected at all times on offense and defense. We must accept collateral damage -- and that means civilians, most of whom are either hostages or sympathetic to the Taliban. This is a war not an "Overseas Contingency."
Lt Gen Dave Deptula the chief of intelligence for the U.S. Air Force did a very thoughtful interview with Wired magazine recently about the war in Afghanistan. He pointed out that the Afghan people’s complaint against the Karzai government is about corruption and incompetence and he notes that the Taliban are the top killers of civilians in Afghanistan. -- The Taliban have been very skillful in using the media against airpower. This is a tremendous asymmetric advantage that General McChrystal had lost due to his dangerous rules of engagement. If General Petraeus does not change this, he and ISAF will fail.
In summary General Petraeus has a very narrow window to defeat the Taliban. Winning hearts and minds will follow. He must change his rules of engagement, get the president to change his July 2011 departure timeline as well as change his national security leadership to show that he is determined to win. Right now the Obama administration has sent all the wrong signals for victory against radical Islam. Even General Save Us cannot win this one.
Lt.Gen. Thomas G. McInerney is retired from the Air Force. He is a Fox News military analyst.
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