Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Open Letter to President Obama Regarding Afghanistan
Below is a guest post from weekly contributor Andrew Lubin.
To: President Barrack Obama
From: Andrew Lubin
Inauguration Day 2009
Dear Mr. President:
I’m one of the many hundreds of millions today who watched you take the Oath of Office to become the 44th President of the United States. (Who would miss a chance to see the United States Marine Corps Band – known since 1801 as “The President’s Own” – open the ceremonies?) And your inaugural speech was even more impressive.
Once the crowds leave DC, however, you’ve got an interesting four years ahead of you. Between the economy and two wars, your first day at work will be a long one. So having spent a fair amount of time in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, I’d like to make a few suggestions that might make your first day a little easier:
1 – Pull the Marines out of Anbar. You have 23,000 Marines sitting in the desert doing nothing. General John Kelly, the Marine commanding general in Anbar, gave an interview last week where he said that he considers his year in Anbar a failure – because he couldn’t convince the Shia government in Baghdad to fund normal reconstruction projects like schools, hospitals, or anything else that would improve the standard of living in this Sunni province.
If Maleki doesn’t care about Iraq, why should we? And you can put your Marines to a far better use.
2 – Send 23,000 Marines to Afghanistan.
2A- Put the fight in Afghanistan under command of the Marine Corps.
Since you want to ‘win’ in Afghanistan, let’s do it right this time. Here’s how:
Afghanistan is a “small wars” fight against two enemies:
1 -The Taliban, who we can beat, and
2 – Corruption in Kabul, which we cannot.
Right now we’re losing the support of the locals because they have no trust in the Afghan National Police or their own government. Until their central government can regularly provide the basic services that American and Coalition force currently provide, why would any locals side with us or Karzai over the Taliban?
But with the Marines in charge, it’ll be run differently. As the Marines get out in the field with the Afghan National Army (it’s called “Muscular Mentoring” and the ANA loves it) we’ll be building an ANA that can control its own battle space. Their 201st Corps already handles its own logistics, planning, and fighting. Have our Army get away from mentoring via PowerPoint and get out in the field and walk point with the ANA.
Stop the ‘big project’ nonsense. This is the third poorest country on earth, and we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars rebuilding power plants? These folks live in mud-brick huts. They own nothing they can plug into the expensive power grid!Instead, start a thousand micro-loan projects like Grameen Bank did in Bangladesh.
Even better, hire Mohammed Yunis (Grameen’s CEO, initiator of the microloan strategy and winner of the Nobel Prize) and let him run the program. By the way, he’s a Muslim; he understands poor Islamic societies better than we do.
Let the Marines fight in the villages. Do you know why the Marines ‘won’ Anbar? Because the Sunnis in Ramadi saw that the Marines would fight – and beat – Al Qada in Iraq. And as the Sunnis joined up with the Marines, the Sunnis’ services improved. They got jobs, their economy improved, and then the other Sunnis saw the improvements and wanted in. And all this was ‘pre-surge.’ It’ll work here.
And with 23,000 more Marines over there, you’ve now got enough for them to fight and live with the ANA in the villages. This kind of security will give the villagers the confidence in their own army and local provincial governments that will let them build a decent local economy and marginalize the corrupt Karzai government.
Get the Army off their huge bases where bureaucracy flourishes. Put them in the field where they belong. Their “creature comforts” have gotten out of control. Do you know they now offer massage services at Bagram? In a war zone? The Army has lost focus as to why they’re deployed.
Level with the American public about what we’re trying to do in Afghanistan. We’re not going to turn this place into a garden of democracy; we just want to build a relatively stable country that won’t launch another 9/11.
You’ve got our support. Good luck!
Visit the site of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel.