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A succession war in Afghanistan

In the Pakistani army circles, they call him “Mr. David Petraeus”. It is meant to be a derisive reference intended to make the point that the US general commanding the forces in Afghanistan is less of a soldier and more of a politician – a Bonapartist of sorts. There is some merit in the estimation that Petraeus is a smooth operator in the corridors of power in Washington and is ruthlessly ambitious. From the Pak perspective, he is the main protagonist of the military surge in Afghanistan. He seems to stick out when almost all other main actors in the US establishment including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Representative Marc Grossman have come to openly prefer the diplomatic/political track. And there is a sense of exasperation in Pakistan that so long as the surge policy remains – namely, the thesis of degrading the Taliban and making them crawl on their knees before talking with them – peace process is a non-starter. Petraeus now says he will continue through fall before being reassigned. According to Washington grapevine, he may end up heading the CIA in which case he will continue to be in business in Afghanistan.
Petraeus is reportedly arranging a successor who is in sync with his outlook on the war. And in the process, David Rodriguez who is arguably the best man for the job may get overlooked. This according to Washington Post. Petraeus seems to be uncomfortable that Rodriguez is a old pal of Stanley McChrystal, who believed in working with Hamid Karzai and in the “Afghanization” of the war. R and M made a great team in Afghanistan – they were classmates in West Point – and both were wedded to the idea that the war had no military solution. These personality clashes seem to have a bearing on the US strategy in Afghanistan. Barack Obama cannot easily pull up Petraeus because he is badly needed for selling the unpopular war on the Hill – as also given his charisma and his proximity with the Republicans, he is becoming virtually untouchable as an election year approaches. In short, the current US-Pak tensions are multi-tiered and are also related to the confusion prevailing in the US strategy. The Rodriguez affair speaks of the intensity of the personality clashes at the decision-making level. WaPo article is a ‘must read’ to make out the eddies of this war – the power plays that complicate the execution of the war.

Posted in Military, Politics.

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