The president who decided to again change strategies in Afghanistan after announcing his “new” and “comprehensive” strategy soon after taking office and then dithered for months before making a decision on the “surge” is now concerned that the troops he’s committed aren’t magically going to be there and ready when he wants them there.
Remember the “let me be clear, this decision has delayed nothing” rhetoric”? Well, let me be clear – his inexperience apparently has left him with the false impression that troop deployments are an overnight thing. And now the usual finger pointing from the White House has begun.
As you might imagine, it really has nothing to do with the troops per se. They can be loaded up quite quickly and flown into Afghanistan. But, as the old saying goes, “amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics”. And the amateurs in the White House apparently don’t understand the impact the addition of 30,000 more troops in theater have on an already strained logistics system:
Last month in Kabul, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the deputy commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, did not back away from that schedule, but he told reporters of the difficulties he faced even in getting all the forces in by fall. He said that bad weather, limited capacity to send supplies by air and attacks on ground convoys carrying equipment for troops from Pakistan and other countries presented substantial hurdles.
“There’s a lot of risks in here, but we’re going to try to get them in as fast as we can,” he said at the time. “There’s a lot of things that have to line up perfectly.”
On a visit to Afghanistan last month, Admiral Mullen pressed military logisticians on how they would be able to meet the schedule. But even Admiral Mullen, who said he was “reasonably confident” that the logistics would work out, acknowledged the tall order before the military, saying, “I want a plan B because life doesn’t always work out.”
So why wasn’t the logistics system already prepared to take the surge? Well, until the decision was made, no one in the logistics channel knew there was actually going to be a surge, or how large it would be if there was one. Unlike the claim made by the president, every day he delayed that decision was another day the logistics piece remained unplanned and unresourced. And that’s on top of the problems that LTG Rodriguez has pointed out.
One thing you obviously don’t want to do is field soldiers you can’t support and sustain. The surest way to ensure you get your tail kicked is to watch tactical operations falter because of the beans and bullets piece can’t support the plan.
As usual, the military will try to make up for the amateur screwup and meet the unrealistic timetable. Whether or not they’re successful remains to be seen – but bear in mind that problem that the military faces in successfully meeting that goal of full deployment by this summer isn’t one of their making, but a product of delays in the decision making process at the highest level.