The President and Operational Planning

Why, over six months after his West Point speech is there still such a debate over President Obama’s July 2011 departure date for Afghanistan? Simple; a military campaign has never been won where you run a blinkered Time-Based campaign instead of a disciplined Conditions-Based campaign.

From the CINC’s West Point speech late last year that started this whole JUL 11 kerfuffle.

Now, taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.

Those who understand how conflicts are won and lost know that to move from one Phase to another – i.e. Operations to Transition – you need to meet certain Decisive Conditions. You don’t do something then evaluate Conditions. By his statements, the CINC seems to either be ignoring that inconvenient fact – or refuses to believe it applies to him. That is why the debate continues.

The latest from Politico just reinforces the CINC’s disconnect from the fundamentals of warfare.

Obama chastised what he dubbed a current “obsession” over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. “My focus right now is how do we make sure what we’re doing there is successful,” he said. “By next year we will begin a transition.”

The CINC’s ideas on Operational Planning are 180 degrees out from thousands of years of military experience.

There is one area in military planning where you can do something on a strict timetable; retreat.

The professionals around the CINC have known this from the very moment he spoke and have been trying to create a path where the CINC can back out of the swamp he ran in to. Admiral Mullen the weekend following the West Point speech.

… Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said on “American Morning” on CNN. “July of 2011 is a time where we can start to transition, … but it’s not a hard deadline to leave.”

That was over six months ago, and the professionals are still trying. A couple of weeks ago from AFP,

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected suggestions Sunday that US forces will move out of Afghanistan in large numbers in July of next year under a deadline set by President Barack Obama.

That absolutely has not been decided,” Gates said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

Last week as reported in The Weekly Standard,

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last week, General David Petraeus, … said that both the start date of the withdrawal and the rate of withdrawal should be based on “conditions on the ground.”



Petraues continued:

“…as July 2011 approaches, I will provide my best professional military advice to the secretary and the president on how I believe we should proceed based on the conditions at that time, and I then will support the president’s ultimate decision.

The Afghan Ambassador Tayeb Jawad and Sen. McCain (R-AZ) also understand the essential requirement of Conditions Based Planning … but from the “Monkeys Fracking Footballs” that is this administration’s Afghanistan policy STRATCOM, we have this in the same AFP article linked to above,

Vice President Joe Biden, an early skeptic of the US military buildup in Afghanistan, was quoted as telling author Jonathan Alter recently: “In July of 2011, you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it.

… and the same day from AP,

The Obama administration is reaffirming its pledge to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer.



President Barack Obama’s chief of staff tells ABC’s “This Week” that the July 2011 date to begin withdrawal is firm. Emanuel isn’t disputing quoted remarks from Vice President Joe Biden that “a whole lot” of troops would leave.

There you go.

I believe that we can achieve victory on our terms in Afghanistan. All it requires is decisive leadership and strategic patience. If we start leaving in JUL 11 in a Time-Based vice a Conditions-Based approach in any significant manner – mark you calendar. Afghanistan will end in defeat. The second and third order effects of that defeat will be unknown – but our children and grandchildren will curse us for it.

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