Army Vet: 'Stubborn' Generals Stifled Afghan Conflict

A former Army officer blamed generals in Afghanistan for failing to take Obama's war plans seriously.


The Afghanistan war has continued to flounder due to the "stubbornness" of some American and NATO generals there, a top military analyst said Wednesday.

U.S. and Western commanders believed the 30,000 additional American troops President Barack Obama sent them in 2009 would be there permanently, says Andrew Exum, a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

In a Dec. 1, 2009 speech at West Point, Obama announced the so-called surge of forces--but he also made clear his administration would begin bringing some of those troops home in the middle of 2011. Obama said, essentially, the generals could have one more bite of the apple in Afghanistan -- but in 2011, the Commander-in-chief said he would kick-start a process to "bring this war to a successful conclusion."

That part of the announcement was lost on many U.S. and NATO commanders, said Exum, who helped write the Obama team's revised 2009 war strategy and now is with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The generals merely "nodded their heads ... but then carried out the campaign plans they already had," Exum says.

Obama already has withdrawn the first 10,000 of the surge troops, with the remaining 20,000 set to come out by Oct. 1 of this year. The 68,000 U.S. forces that will be left in Afghanistan are on pace to be removed by the end of 2014, though Washington is expected to leave in place a cadre of special operations and support forces to assist Afghan military and police units and target anti-Western fighters, officials and lawmakers say.

[Read Obama Administration to Allies: Pony Up for Afghan Forces.]

While some believe the war will end in 2014, John Nagl, another former Army officer and current U.S. Naval Academy fellow, told reporters Wednesday the conflict likely will drag on "for still a number of years." That assessment comes as several U.S. public opinion polls show Americans against keeping up the fight there more than at any point in its nearly 11-year span.

Dwindling U.S. public opinion of the conflict could lead the president to bring more troops home before 2014, Nora Bensahel, a CNAS senior fellow, said duringa forum in Washington Wednesday.

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