Free Markets, Free People

NATO

Meanwhile in Libya …

As we watch the politicians dance around about government shut down and play their political games, a little aside for the quickly forgotten war in Libya.

This week NATO managed to take out 13 more … rebels.  Apparently NATO didn’t know the rebs planned on using some captured tanks and paid the price.

That’s led to a little friction between NATO and the rebs:

Outside Ajdabiya, rebel fighters slapped peach-colored paint on their vehicles to try to distinguish from the pro-Qaddafi units.

"We are painting the trucks so NATO won’t hit us," said Salam Salim, a 29-year-old rebel militiaman.

Tensions between the rebels and NATO were flaring even before the latest accident, with the fighters criticizing the alliance for doing too little to help them.

A NATO official, meanwhile, said there is growing frustration with the rebels’ perception that NATO is acting as their proxy air force. The U.N. mandate calls only for international air power to enforce a no-fly zone and prevent attacks on civilians — although Qaddafi’s ground forces remain a primary target.

"We’re trying to get messages back to them about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to achieve," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under standing NATO regulations.

I can just see Gahdafi’s men slapping peach paint on their vehicles now.

Meanwhile, the promised “no boots on the ground?”   Not so firm apparently:

The United States may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, according to the general who led the military mission until NATO took over.

Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers Thursday that added American participation would not be ideal, and ground troops could erode the international coalition and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.

Ham said the operation was largely stalemated now and was more likely to remain that way since America has transferred control to NATO.

He said NATO has done an effective job in an increasingly complex combat situation. But he noted that, in a new tactic, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging military forces and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques.

Adaptation.

But back to the point – why would we consider “sending troops into Libya?”  I mean we’re there to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civvies, right?

Only one reason to even be considering troops on the ground and that is the real end result desired – regime change- doesn’t look like it will happen without them. 

Like I said before, “mission creep”.

Worth noting – SecDef Gates said there’d be no US boots on the ground “as long as I’m in this job.”  He may be leaving sooner than we think.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Libyan update

Paul Miller, writing in Foreign Policy’s “Shadow Government” gets to the crux of the problem with the Libyan intervention – something the liberal hawks don’t want to admit:

Advocates of the Libyan intervention have invoked the "responsibility to protect" to justify the campaign. But R2P is narrowly and specifically aimed at stopping genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity on a very large scale. It does not give the international community an excuse to pick sides in a civil war when convenient. Qaddafi has certainly committed crimes against humanity in this brief war, but R2P was designed to stop widespread, systematic, sustained, orchestrated crimes. If Qaddafi’s barbarity meets that threshold, the administration hasn’t made the case yet, and I’m not convinced. If R2P justifies Libya, then it certainly obligates us to overthrow the governments of Sudan and North Korea and to do whatever it takes to prevent the Taliban from seizing power in Kabul.

In effect, Miller is accusing the administration of using R2P as cover to do what they want to do, regardless of whether or not it fits the so-called principle.  As he points out it is a selective application that, if it is indeed a “principle”, should be rigorously applied in other countries now.  It won’t be, of course (and that’s fine with me), but it is important to understand that in the list of priority applications of R2P, Libya should be way down on the list and it could even be argued the country shouldn’t even be on that list.  What we’ve actually done is insert ourselves in a civil war.

Speaking of the civil war in Libya, it appears the “rebels” or opposition, which ever you prefer, are a pretty rag-tag crew with little hope of success without an enormous amount of help.   Among the things I’ve read is the fact that there is no real unified single rebel command structure or shadow government.  There are 3 competing factions. 

At the courthouse on Benghazi’s battered seafront promenade, the de-facto seat of the Libyan revolution, a group of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals have appointed one another to a hodgepodge of “leadership councils.” There is a Benghazi city council, and a Provisional National Council, headed by a bland but apparently honest former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who spends his time in Bayda, a hundred and twenty-five miles away. Other cities have councils of their own. The members are intellectuals, former dissidents, and businesspeople, many of them from old families that were prominent before Qaddafi came to power. What they are not is organized. No one can explain how the Benghazi council works with the National Council. Last week, another shadow government, the Crisis Management Council, was announced in Benghazi; it was unclear how its leader, a former government planning expert named Mahmoud Jibril, would coördinate with Jalil, or whether he had supplanted him.

Add to that two competing military chiefs:

One is General Abdel Fateh Younis, who was Qaddafi’s interior minister and the commander of the Libyan special forces until he “defected” to the rebel side. Younis has been publicly absent, and he is distrusted by the shabab and by many council members. The other chief, Colonel Khalifa Heftir, is a hero of Libya’s war with Chad, in the nineteen-eighties; he later turned against Qaddafi and, until recently, was in exile in the U.S. Unlike Younis, he elicits widespread admiration in Benghazi, but he, too, has kept out of sight, evidently at a secret Army camp where he is preparing élite troops for battle.

Uh huh … elite troops that have yet to make their way to the battle.

As to the battle, it’s semi-competent troops against a disorganized rabble.  And, as you might imagine, since the Gadhaif faction has adapted its tactics to mitigate the effect of airstrikes, it is beginning to show:

Many of the idealistic young men who looted army depots of gun trucks and weapons six weeks ago believed the tyrannical 41-year reign of Col. Moammar Kadafi would quickly collapse under the weight of a mass rebellion.

Now those same volunteer fighters, most of whom had never before fired a gun, have fled a determined onslaught by Kadafi’s forces, which have shown resilience after being bombarded and routed by allied airstrikes a week ago.

Some exhausted rebels capped a 200-plus mile retreat up the Libyan coast by fleeing all the way to Benghazi, the rebels’ de facto capital, to rest and regroup. Others remained at thinly manned positions at the strategic crossroads city of Ajdabiya on Thursday.

There’s really no one in charge on the rebel side and of course, that means that they’re simply ineffective.  Indicators of how ineffective they are are obvious.  Also obvious is the lack of discipline which will, in the end, cause their complete and utter defeat:

For many rebel fighters, the absence of competent military leadership and a tendency to flee at the first shot have contributed to sagging morale. Despite perfunctory V-for-victory signs and cries of "Allahu akbar!" (God is great), the eager volunteers acknowledge that they are in for a long, uphill fight.

"Kadafi is too strong for us, with too many heavy weapons. What can we do except fall back to protect ourselves?" said Salah Chaiky, 41, a businessman, who said he fired his assault rifle while fleeing Port Brega even though he was too far away to possibly hit the enemy.

Retreating rebels paused only to wolf down lunches provided by volunteers supporting their cause. Two in mismatched military uniforms took time out in Ajdabiya to sneak into a blown-out police post and smoke hashish.

There are reports that one of the rebel factions has negotiated a deal with Qatr to exchange oil for weapons.  They can trade for all the weapons in the world but without the training and discipline necessary to make them into a competent fighting force, that means nothing.  For instance:

Few, if any, T-72 tanks and BM-21 rocket launchers recovered from government forces who abandoned the weapons during Western-led airstrikes have been brought to the front. Opposition leaders, who say defecting government soldiers are qualified to supervise rebel volunteers, say those same regulars aren’t trained to operate the tanks and rockets.

Operating them is obviously important.  But so is employing the in accordance to some strategy also apparently lacking.  As you can imagine, rebel morale is starting to really sink badly.  No one should find that surprising.

Of course another aspect of the rebels is their makeup.  As SecDef Gates said yesterday it’s a “pick up game” for that side.  There are approximately 1,000 trained fighters according to rebel sources.  But there are also other fighters within the mix (and probably some overlap).  As one admiral said in testimony before the Armed Services Committees, there’s a “flicker” of jihadis.

In fact, it seems more than a flicker:

A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.

Obviously such an estimate has to be taken with a grain of salt – the number, not the fact that AQ jihadis are involved.  We know al Queda is involved:

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".

Al-Hasidi fought in Afghanistan against NATO and for the Taliban until he was captured in 2002 in Pakistan.  He was released in 2008 in Libya.

Also worrying:

Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".

We’ll see, if that’s true, if they begin popping up in Gaza and Afghanistan.  In the meantime, given the above, who again is our enemy?

Finally, amid a couple of high level defections, it is reported that the Gadhafi government has sent a special envoy to the UK for some secret meetings.  Speculation has it that he’s there to negotiate an exit strategy.

High level defections usually indicate instability in a regime and the rats attempt to save themselves before the ship sinks.  But Gadhafi has already survived a round of such defections.  And with rebels falling back in disarray with low morale, the situation just doesn’t lend itself to a persuasive argument that Gadhafi would be trying to find a way out.

The envoy is a senior aide to Gadhafi’s son Saif.  Here’s what some believe is being presented:

Some aides working for Gaddafi’s sons, however, have made it clear that it may be necessary to sideline their father and explore exit strategies to prevent the country descending into anarchy.

One idea the sons have reportedly suggested – which the Guardian has been unable to corroborate – is that Gaddafi give up real power. Mutassim, presently the country’s national security adviser, would become president of an interim national unity government which would include the opposition. It is an idea, however, unlikely to find support among the rebels or the international community who are demanding Gaddafi’s removal.

The argument is “anarchy is a distinct possibility” and would see the wholesale slaughter of civilians.  So, the compromise position is we’ll put dear old Dad on the sideline, one of the sons will become an interim president and we’ll also include those rebels in the interim government.

Sounds like a stall to me.   But then, the stall makes sense if you’re about to push the rebels back into Benghazi and you’d like to see if you can’t waive off NATO airstrikes for a bit by a little “good faith” negotiation, eh?

No cynicism there – just Gadhafi being Gadhafi.  He knows that’s unacceptable but it may buy critical time.

Bottom line: the rebels are in trouble, I don’t think theGadhafii government is in danger of imminent collapse, NATO’s mission becomes more difficult by the day (and probably less effective) and this thing could drag on for months, even years.

Aren’t you glad we’ve inserted ourselves in the middle of this war of choice?

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

NATO: We may have to bomb you to save you

The building debacle in Libya grows even more absurd and funny in a sad sort of way. 

As NATO takes over control of airstrikes in Libya and the Obama administration considers new steps to tip the balance of power there, the coalition has told the rebels that the fog of war will not shield them from possible bombardment by NATO planes and missiles, just as the regime’s forces have been punished.

“We’ve been conveying a message to the rebels that we will be compelled to defend civilians, whether pro-Qaddafi or pro-opposition,” said a senior Obama administration official. “We are working very hard behind the scenes with the rebels so we don’t confront a situation where we face a decision to strike the rebels to defend civilians.”

Well that answers my question about ‘good’ civilians and ‘bad’ civilians although a Vatican representative in Tripoli reports that coalition air strikes have killed 40 civilians in that city.  This is apparently one NATO can’t waive away as Gadhafi planting corpses to look like NATO is causing civilian deaths.

I love the line about “working very hard behind the scenes with the rebels” about the problem.  I assume those would be the CIA agents in the country as a result of a secret order by President Transparency?  Hello, Congress?  Yeah, don’t worry about it, I’ll call you from Brazil.

Anyway, back to the point at hand – the NATO warning about civilians seems much more in the spirit of the UN resolution than does helping rebel forces by bombing opposition units as the rebels advance or striking Tripoli in an obvious (but denied) attempt to facilitate regime change.

So if NATO is so hot to ensure the rebs don’t kill civilians and doesn’t plan on letting Gadhafi do it, it appears NATO is the only one doing it right now.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, Andrew Sullivan is having a melt down over all of this.  He has a bad case of the vapors:

It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars – just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this – in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?

To answer Sullivan’s question – no.  At least I can’t imagine a dumber one, but then there’s always the possibility that our leader may manage to find one.  Expect it to happen the next time he decides on a foreign junket.  As for Sully – that’s what blind and unquestioning love does for you, big boy.  Maybe next time you’ll remove the blinders and ask some pertinent questions of your candidate of choice – like what in the world have you ever done that qualifies you for this job?

Wait, I’m talking about the left here, aren’t I?

Nah … not going to happen.

Anyway, back to the issue:

The increasing murkiness of the battlefield, as the freewheeling rebels advance and retreat and as fighters from both sides mingle among civilians, has prompted NATO members to issue new “rules of engagement” spelling out when the coalition may attack units on the ground in the name of protecting civilians.

It was unclear how the rules are changing — especially on the critical questions surrounding NATO’s mandate and whether it extends to protecting rebels who are no longer simply defending civilian populated areas like Benghazi, but are instead are themselves on the offensive.

“This is a challenge,” said a senior alliance military officer. “The problem of discriminating between combatant and civilian is never easy, and it is compounded when you have Libyan regime forces fighting irregular forces, like the rebel militias, in urban areas populated by civilians.”

Of course it is “a challenge”.  It’s worthy of “Mission Impossible”.  As this mess, this civil war ebbs and flows, telling red and blue from white is going to verge on impossible.  And with reports of Gadhafi arming civilians (one assumes to enable them to defend themselves) NATO also gets to decide whether or not armed civilians are fair game.

This is the sort of situations you find yourself in when you commit to “dumb wars”.  But then our fearless leader knows all about “dumb wars”, he doesn’t want to fight them.  And yet, there he is, fighting one in Libya.  You can hear Sully crying from here.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

So, let’s talk some more about Libya

For instance, did you know that Libya has about as much of a tribal problem as does Afghanistan?   Or perhaps “problem” isn’t the best choice of words.  Are you aware of the tribal politics involved in Libya?

Yeah, neither are most folks – in fact, I dare say that lack of knowledge may even extend to, ahem, our government experts.

First, let’s look at the military operations side of this potential debacle.  What and where are the coalition members striking?  Well here’s a graphic from the Washington Post that provides a fairly extensive overview of how Libyan government forces are arrayed.

w-Libya

 

That gives you a pretty good representation of the lay of the land.  Note the “opposition held” cities and their location.  Almost all of them are in the east.  That will come into the discussion a bit further on.  As it stands, those air fields noted on the map and the air defense system of Libya have been the primary target of the coalition attacks.  There have also been some attacks on armored columns, the one specifically reported was headed into Benghazi.

How effective has all of this been?  Well again, reports out of Libya before the “intervention” were sparse about the effectiveness of Libyan air power.  But what had been reported didn’t seem to paint Libyan air support as very decisive. 

Meanwhile in the coalition, some dissention.  ABC’s “The Note” notes:

"The biggest obstacle to the Libyan intervention right now isn’t the Arab world but rather differences among France, the U.K. and the U.S. about who’s in charge," Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels and a former NATO defense analyst, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The Obama administration continues to emphasize the operation will be short in duration and scope, and that the U.S. will hand over authority to its coalition partners soon. The transition will happen in a "matter of days, not a matter of weeks," President Obama said on Monday. "How quickly this transfer takes places will be determined by the recommendations of our commanding officers."

That and how well the coalition holds together.  For instance, according to Jake Tapper:

Members of the Arab League have also expressed skepticism. There were several calls from some members of the Arab League this weekend to stop the strikes, given reports of civilian deaths being broadcast by Libyan state TV. The United Arab Emirates, which was to be a key participant, has decided not to send military aircraft.

France is pushing hard to have command handed over to them.  But Italy’s Foreign Minister Frattini has said Italy will rethink the use of its bases if NATO isn’t given command.  Norway has suspended its participation until the command issue is resolved.  Meanwhile, we have the football.

Obama responds to the criticism:

Obama today sought to temper some of the concerns about the mission, saying the United States’ advanced military capabilities and initial leadership "shapes the environment in which a no-fly zone would be effective."

"After the initial thrust that has disabled Gadhafi’s air defenses, limits his ability to threaten large population centers like Benghazi, that there is going to be a transition taking place in which we have a range of coalition partners… who will then be participating in establishing a no-fly zone," Obama said in Chile. "So there will be a transition taking place of which we are one of the partners."

And someone else will be in charge, supposedly, deciding how to “shape the environment in which the no-fly zone would be effective” according to their interpretation of the effective UN resolution 1973.  It could, of course, be a much more aggressive interpretation than the US has committed too.  Then what?

So, what is the proposed end-state to all of this?  When does this coalition stop flying.  Well that’s the most important unanswered question there is.  And there’s a reason it is unanswered – there is no “exit strategy” as we speak.

Which brings us to a little of the background of the Libyan situation.  Ted Galen Carpenter, of CATO lays a little history on us:

[T]he United States and its allies are wandering into a murky political and demographic minefield in Libya. Western media and policy types have a fuzzy image of the rebels as brave, democratic insurgents determined to liberate the country from a brutal tyrant. But there are other, perhaps far more important, elements involved. Libya itself is yet another fragile, artificial political entity that the European colonial powers created. Italy cobbled together three disparate provinces to establish its Libyan colony. Those areas consisted of Cyrenaica in the east (centered around on the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk), Tripolitania in the west (centered around Tripoli, which became the colonial capital), and less populous and less important Fezzan in the south-southwest.

The key point is that the various tribes inhabiting Cyrenaica and Tripolitania had almost nothing in common. Indeed, they sometimes had an adversarial relationship. Yet, when the victorious Allied powers took control of Libya from Italy during and after World War II, they maintained this unstable amalgam instead of separating it into its more cohesive constituent parts.

That is not merely a matter of historical interest. The sharp divide between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania persisted after Libya became independent, and it persists to this day. It is no coincidence that the current uprising against the Qaddafi regime began in the east, with rebel forces quickly seizing Benghazi and other cities in Cyrenaica. Virtually all previous (unsuccessful) anti-regime movements began in the same region. Qaddafi is from Tripolitania and has long depended on western tribes and his western-dominated security forces as his power base. And as easily as rebel demonstrators and troops seized major targets in the east, they predictably faltered as they pressed deeper into Tripolitania.

So what’s the message here?  This is mostly tribal warfare that has historical precedence and is unlikely to – in and of itself – see Gadhafi ousted from power.  He is the titular head of the tribe which populates the area in which he lives.  Again, note those “opposition controlled” cities and where they’re located.  What we’re messing in is a civil war with one side/tribe warring against the other.  The question is, with the change of command among the coalition, will the new command eventually pick a side.   Right now the mission is ostensibly to protect civilian lives.  But what if the new coalition commander decides air strikes in support of a rebel offensive is the best way to “protect civilians”?  What then?

Carpenter also asks what we know about the rebels:

The agenda of the rebels remains uncertain, but the two leading possibilities both pose major problems for the United States and its allies as they launch their intervention. One possibility is that insurgent leaders want to keep Libya intact and simply reverse the power relationship with their Tripolitanian adversaries. In other words, a victory over the Qaddafi regime would be time for payback. The other possibility is that they wish to split the country and secure independence for Cyrenaica. There is historical precedent for such an objective. Libya’s monarch, King Idris, told the United States and the other Allied powers after World War II that he wished to rule only Cyrenaica, because he thought that trying to control the larger amalgam would be too difficult and lead to dangerous instability.

So should the mission creep to the extent that the coalition is aiding the rebels in their quest to overthrow the Gadhafi regime, what’s the possible outcome?

Assisting the Cyrenaica-based rebels to oust Qaddafi will almost certainly provoke resentment from the people of Tripolitania. If the rebels split the country, that will become a focal point of resentment for those defeated tribes — and a new grievance against the West throughout much of the Muslim world. Even if the rebels attempt to keep Libya intact, the Tripolitanians are bound to resent Washington for their new, subordinate status. Either way, the United States and its allies are in danger of stumbling into a situation in which they are almost certain to acquire new enemies. That is the last thing that America needs.

And there are other questions about the rebel forces as well:

According to a cache of al Qaeda documents captured in 2007 by U.S. special operations commandos in Sinjar, Iraq, hundreds of foreign fighters, many of them untrained young Islamic volunteers, poured into Iraq in 2006 and 2007. The documents, called the Sinjar documents, were collected, translated and analyzed at the West Point Counter Terrorism Center. Almost one in five foreign fighters arriving in Iraq came from eastern Libya, many from the city of Darnah. Others came from Surt and Misurata to the west.

On a per capita basis, that’s more than twice as many than came from any other Arabic-speaking country, amounting to what the counter terrorism center called a Libyan “surge" of young men eager to kill Americans.

During 2006 and 2007, a total of 1,468 Americans were killed in combat and 12,524 were badly wounded, according to Pentagon records.

Today, there is little doubt that eastern Libya, like other parts of the Arab world, is experiencing a genuine burst of anti-totalitarian fervor, expressed in demands for political freedom and economic reforms. But there also is a dark history to eastern Libya, which is the home of the Islamic Libyan Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi organization officially designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

Yes, so far this is shaping up to be quite a little mess.  Obama may think he can hurl a few Tomahawks at the “bad guys”, hand it all over to someone else and walk away, but that’s not a reality I see in the cards for this one.  And it is certainly a reality we have little national interest in or should have involved ourselves in.

But here we are …

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Observations: The Qando Podcast for 16 Aug 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the troubling nature of Turkey’s re-alignment away from the West, and President Obama’s statements about the “Ground Zero” mosque.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Observations: The Qando Podcast for 06 Jun 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the employment numbers, and Turkey’s seeming intent to provoke a conflict with Israel.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

NATO Promises 7,000 Additional Troops For Afghanistan

Except it really doesn’t.  In fact, among those 7,000 “additional” troops promised are 1,500 which are already in country and the 500 the British had already promised.  So it’s 5,000 additional troops in reality.   Nothing to sneeze at but certainly not the 10,000 desired.  As expected many will come from former Eastern bloc nations:

1,000 from Poland; 600 from Italy, plus more Carabinieri to work with Afghan police (something which worked well in Iraq – ed.). Slovakia is sending a small deployment …

Non NATO nations are sending detachments as well – South Korea is sending a small one and a surprisingly large one of about 1,000 is coming from Georgia.

The clinker?

An undisclosed number of the new troops will steer clear of the fighting because they are barred by their countries from combat operations. And two allies, the Netherlands and Canada, still plan to withdraw nearly 5,000 troops in the next two years, offsetting the infusion.

But it sounds great on paper, doesn’t it?

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

NATO Says No To Obama’s Afgan Plea

Reality intruded on President Obama’s magical mystery tour in Europe today as NATO ministers turned a deaf ear to his plea for more troops in Afghanistan:

Gordon Brown was the only one to offer substantial help. He offered to send several hundred extra British soldiers to provide security during the August election, but even that fell short of the thousands of combat troops that the US was hoping to prise from the Prime Minister.

Just two other allies made firm offers of troops. Belgium offered to send 35 military trainers and Spain offered 12. Mr Obama’s host, Nicolas Sarkozy, refused his request.

Of course this had all been predicted by those who’ve been watching NATO and Europe for years (which would include us here at QandO). Western Europe, which forms the bulk of NATO, for the most part has no stomach for the war in Afghanistan, heck, they barely have a stomach for their own defense. Instead of the thousands troops, Obama was sure he’d be able to charm from them he’ll see 547 to 747 more troops, most from the UK, while the US sends 21,000.

While the school girls and press may be enamored with the charm and glamor of Obama, one of the major reasons for his trip turns out to be an unsurprising failure.

~McQ

Does This Guy Even Begin To “Get It”?

On April 3-4, President Obama will attend a summit in Strasbourg, France and meet NATO leaders for the first time. One of the promises he made during his campaign for the presidency is he’d improve relations between the US and other countries around the globe. One would assume that means those who we are friendly with as well. Yet since taking office he has managed to humiliate the Brits, piss off the Mexicans (who’ve now applied tariffs on over 2 billion dollars worth of our agricultural exports), see us embarrassed in front of the Russians, and now, treated NATO like a bastard step-child.

On Wednesday afternoon, e-mails circulating between Brussels and Berlin suggesting that, within the course of the day, Washington would name General James N. Mattis as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The commander is in charge of all US troops in Europe as well as NATO deployments, including the ISAF security force in Afghanistan.

Traditionally, the United States appoints the supreme commander and the Europeans pick the NATO secretary general. The decision to appoint Mattis appeared to be a logical one. He has long carried the title “Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.”

In the end, though, Mattis didn’t get the appointment. Instead, Defense Minister Robert Gates announced that Admiral James Stavridis would be nominated for the highly prestigious position. The US Senate and the NATO Council must approve his nomination, but it appears likely he will get through. Gates said Stavridis was “probably one of the best senior military officers” in the US.

In Brussels, though, many felt bluffed. “America treats this like it’s purely an American matter — and they didn’t even give any hints about the appointment,” one NATO employee said. “The conspiratorial manner of the personnel search was almost reminiscent of the way the pope is selected,” Stefani Weiss, a NATO expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation in Brussels, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Not exactly the way NATO should be treated on the eve of a meeting in which it is clear that Obama is going to ask NATO nations to contribute more to the Afghanistan effort. As Ed Morrisey at Hot Air points out:

Democrats accused the Bush administration of “arrogance” in diplomatic efforts, mostly because we chose to bypass the UN and finish the Iraq War with our own coalition of partners. I doubt that Donald Rumsfeld, with all his New/Old Europe talk, would have appointed a Supreme Allied Commander without at least consulting the major partners in NATO. Obama’s decision to do that speaks to his own arrogance and a certain level of disdain for the Western military alliance.

Obama has spoken constantly during the past two years about the critical nature of the fight in Afghanistan, and how the Bush administration allowed themselves to get distracted by Iraq. He also criticized the damage Bush supposedly did to our alliances that hurt the Afghanistan effort. This snub looks a lot more direct and a lot more damaging than anything Bush did.

So, we’ll see what help NATO’s nations decide to offer in early April after this move.

And speaking of Afghanistan, the Obama administration is getting ready to present its strategy for our fight there. One of the first things expressed by Obama is the need for an exit strategy. Naturally that being the first thing mentioned by the new CiC bothers me. Although obviously true, I’m reminded that his “exit strategy” for Iraq was “get out, get out now and that will force the Iraqis to stand up and take charge.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s not going to be something reflected in his “new” Afghanistan strategy.

Then there’s this very strange report:

The US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

Now Hamid Karzai may not be the leader of choice in Afghanistan for most of the West, and he may essentially be the “mayor of Kabul” in a real sense. But, like it or not, he is the duly elected president of Afghanistan. What is being talked about here is technically a coup.

The proposal for an alternative chief executive, which originated with the US, is backed by Europeans. “There needs to be a deconcentration of power,” said one senior European official. “We need someone next to Karzai, a sort of chief executive, who can get things done, who will be reliable for us and accountable to the Afghan people.”

Really? And how do these people think those who voted in Karzai will greet such interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan? Do they suppose this is going to make the fight we have there easier? This is exactly what the Soviets did. Are they freakin’ nuts?

The risk for the US is that the imposition of a technocrat alongside Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be an Afghan. Karzai declared his intention last week to resist a dilution of his power. Last week he accused an unnamed foreign government of trying to weaken central government in Kabul.

“That is not their job,” the Afghan president said. “Afghanistan will never be a puppet state.”

Can anyone think of a better way to create another class of enemy within the state of Afghanistan than to essentially depose their leader? Can you imagine the propaganda value of such a move to the Taliban who will surely say “we told you so?”

I’m getting a very bad feeling about all of this.

~McQ