Dawn News

US soldiers with Delta Company 4th Brigade combat team, 2-508, 82nd parachute infantry Regiment, patrol in the Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan. – Reuters (File Photo)

WASHINGTON, June 26: The Pentagon sent thousands of US troops to the wrong province in Afghanistan and “squandered more than a year of the war”, claims a book released on Tuesday.

The book — “Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan” — also shows how the White House national security staff blocked the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke from negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban.

After reading the revelations, Congressman Frank Wolf wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to remove retired Lt-Gen Douglas Lute from his post on the National Security Council for blocking Mr Holbrooke’s peace plans.

In February 2009, President Obama agreed to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and another 30,000 later the same year.

But more than 50 per cent of the initial 17,000 ended up in Helmand instead of the Taliban nerve-centre of Kandahar.

“Can someone tell me why the Marines were sent to Helmand?” Gen Stanley McChrystal, the then US commander in Afghanistan, reportedly asked upon his arrival in Kabul in June 2009.

Gen McChrystal regarded Helmand to be of “far lower strategic significance” than Kandahar.

If the first batch of surge troops had been deployed to Kandahar, it could have obviated the need for a full 30,000 surge later that year, US military officials who served in Afghanistan told the author, Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post.

A deployment in Kandahar could also have granted US commanders “the flexibility to combat insurgent havens in eastern Afghanistan much sooner”, the book states.

Gen McChrystal’s 34-year career ended in June 2010 when a Rolling Stone magazine article quoted his subordinates ridiculing President Obama.

The book details how the infighting between Mr Holbrooke and Gen Lute — and then-National Security Adviser James Jones — thwarted efforts to seek a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war.

At one stage, Gen Jones tried getting President Obama to fire Mr Holbrooke but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prevented it.

NSC officials would schedule key meetings when Mr Holbrooke was out of town, refused to allow him to use a military aeroplane and tried, unsuccessfully, to exclude him from President Obama’s Oval Office meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

President Obama “could have ordered a stop to the infighting” because, he too favoured a negotiated end to the war, like Mr Holbrooke, but “his sympathies lay with his NSC staffers”, the book notes.

The president did not like Mr Holbrooke’s “frenetic behaviour”, which was the antithesis of Mr Obama’s ‘no-drama’ rule, Mr Chandrasekaran writes. “The president never granted Mr Holbrooke a one-on-one session in the Oval Office, and when he travelled to Afghanistan in March 2010, he took more than a dozen people” except Mr Holbrooke.

In July 2009, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sent a personal message to President Obama asking him to dispatch someone to meet Taliban emissaries who were communicating with the Saudi intelligence service.

Mr Holbrooke figured the overture was worth pursuing but the NSC showed little interest.

In the spring of 2010, the NSC eventually expressed support for reconciliation but with a twist: Gen Lute suggested that a UN envoy, former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, should negotiate with the Taliban.

Gen Lute’s plan relegated Mr Holbrooke to a support role.

This infuriated Secretary Clinton who thought the NSC was asking a UN envoy to run America’s foreign policy.

When Gen David Petraeus replaced Gen McChrystal in Afghanistan, he shelved peace moves and tried to subdue the Taliban in the battlefield, as he had done in Iraq.

In a letter to President Obama, Congressman Wolf, notes: “Ignoring policy suggestions simply because of personal differences prevented the full consideration of all ideas for achieving success in the region.”

Mr Wolf, who is a member of the House Appropriations Defence subcommittee, urges Mr Obama to act now.

“Since you chose not to quash this petty squabbling while it was occurring, I believe the only solution now is to remove Gen Lute,” he writes.

Such behaviour, he says, is “unacceptable, especially when the lives of America service members are on the line”.

Comments (27) Closed

Irfan Baloch
Jun 27, 2012 09:23pm
now thats what you call a failure on epic proportions. Americans managing to miss an entire province from the map of Afghanistan and then there are people who make fun of PAF for failing to identify American helicopters that came all the way to Abbotabad. I dont think any other country than top what American military has managed to achieve & continue to play the act for a year.
Yasir H. Sheikh
Jun 29, 2012 10:47am
Reblogged this on Rug Pundits and commented: This comment sums up it up: "This just goes on to prove that how the US foreign policy lacks any seiousness of purpose. "
Jun 28, 2012 11:02pm
And all these blunders by the mighty americans are covered up by blaming the weaker partner Pakistan and by putting pressure of "do more".
Jun 28, 2012 08:23pm
target is not afghanistan but pakistan!afghanistan is a just trailer, or exercise place
Jun 27, 2012 11:19am
This shows blunders at highest level of US administration. A timely negotiated deal with Talibans would have save lives of not only of Americans but also others in this region. Yesterday news about peace in Afghanistan needs clarity from Americans and Talibans was quite true. American generals feeding on taxpayers money and war mongering will not yield any results as they are terribly failed to bring peace in Afghanistan for over a decade of war. Adviser are for suggestions not for actions. Obama must consider interests of his nation and find a way to stop that God dame war.
Muhammad Ashraf
Jun 27, 2012 10:47am
Seeing how Amreicans run their seroius affairs like war, it seems that our government, not withstanding all its short commings, is far better then theirs.
zia Khan
Jun 28, 2012 03:49pm
I just want to add that control on road from Kabul to Kandahar is during the day time only. The night belongs to others. What has been achieved even after ten years when you cannot venture out of your barracks? It is simply wastage of human lives and resources.
Jun 27, 2012 02:47pm
Obama must have thought that the war in Afghanistan was never won history bare witness... he must first considered peace, now after this if he is considering peace with Taliban shows that the America 100% lose the war and returning with dishonor and disgrace! you are not aware from the fact you only see and watch media, I am from region and regularly travel in the south The US only control the Road from Kabul to Kandahar with their armored vehicles..they are bringing peace"meaningless". even with that power they cannot travel to 1km distance village from road! Awrang Ghazni Afghanistan,
Jul 01, 2012 03:06pm
A book is as good as it's author. Some are better at fiction than facts. Some are better at facts than fiction. Nonetheless a book is written for profit....bottom line.
EngiMatic Jibz
Jun 27, 2012 10:11am
Beautiful example of ignorance folded in a so called democratic layer.
EngiMatic Jibz
Jun 27, 2012 10:10am
Beautiful example of ignorance folded in a so called democratic layer.
kamran syed
Jun 27, 2012 09:58am
Unbelievable, That can not be possible. A book can not reveal the whole story. Off course before deploying such a number of troops they will have the intel reports that is why they are deploying. We are talking about USA who is ruling the world dont give us the naïve rebukes. These sort of lines come into the political monarchy.
Jun 27, 2012 08:44am
Obama , lacks political farsightedness and lack of understanding of global issues. He heavily depends on the briefings of his advisers on range of political and global issues. US, in fact is being run by advisers of various agencies and not by the President . He has asked his advisers to advise him on how to extend his term for further five years in exchange , he has promised to follow their advise blindfolded. I believe that sooner or later , the drones that Obama prides himself with , will lose its relevance when Taliban will be able to anti drone missiles.
Jun 27, 2012 09:19am
Problem solved!!
arun bhattacharjee
Jun 27, 2012 09:54am
This is a onesided report as we havenot heard what the other party has to say in this mattaer.I think any strategy particularly war strategy is not decided by any single person.We have seen how double agent has singlehandedly destroyed an entire team of CIA operatives
Jun 27, 2012 02:05pm
What is the name of the Book and who wrote it?
Jun 27, 2012 11:28am
Who knows, may be its a cover-up because Obama policy has failed and now they are trying to do this propaganda that troops were sent to the wrong province.
Michael Childress
Jun 28, 2012 09:55pm
with the end of the draft, America has been irreparably injured. with the draft which some never the less eluded, many Americans got to see the low level of intellect and ability that rises to the top in the army. without the "volunteer army," the never ending wars could not continue and this is the purpose of the "volunteer army." the families of the servicemen would have protested, but now no one cares, because it's a peasant army. petraeus is known by some as betrayus. mcchrystal should have been demoted for his comments. wolf is a posturing buffoon; those who support these wars should be the first boots on the ground. leaders should be at the front of an army. how do you lead from the rear? talk is cheap from the rear.
Jun 27, 2012 01:37pm
america falls
Jun 27, 2012 12:37pm
You are comparing American democratic process with Your Ayub Khan, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf. If our political system was worth emulating then we would be the sole global superpower and the USA.
Jun 27, 2012 12:32pm
More than anything else, the squabbles between Mr Holbrooke and Gen Lute, as reported in the book, show how strong American democratic culture is. You can't leave decisions, critical to national security, in the hands of a single person. If Mr Holbrooke was a tad sympathetic towrads Taliban, this was balanced by Gen Lute's strong-arm tactics. In the end, in disputes like this, a middle ground is found, through dialogue. This compromised solution often proves the best.
M. Asghar
Jun 27, 2012 12:31pm
The late President Eisenhower once declared : beware of the army establishment's interference in the political sphere. However, with his successors, one has been neck-deep in this business and the disaster is obvious to everybody in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Javed Zia
Jun 27, 2012 04:03pm
no wonder they are failing
Talat Ali
Jun 27, 2012 07:50am
This just goes on to prove that how the US foreign policy lacks any seiousness of purpose. You have military commanders who run the whole whole show for you in foreign countries. As late President Kennedy once said during the Cuban Missile crisis that a military commander will justify war but beware if the commander doesn't want war. Obama has all along surrounded hiimself with the military because he himself is weak within. He has taken no concrete decision that would reflect his 'Change" policy. He has continued on the same path laid down by his predecessor...nothing new from him. He wants to look tough by surrounding himself by generals. He now needs a war to win the on coming election. Pakistan just fits the role.
Iqbal Ali
Jun 28, 2012 02:04pm
not only the wrong province, but a wrong country as well !
Hamza Zuberi
Jun 28, 2012 05:51am
Wrong post, bro.
Jun 28, 2012 08:54am
For your information this is the same procedure in all the democratic countries.