Months after telling a guy to do a job, everyone gets in a room to discuss how he’s going to do it…and immediately begin disagreeing as to what the job is.
…a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: “Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population.”
“Is that really what you think your mission is?” one of the participants asked.
In the first place, it was impossible — the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. “We don’t need to do that,” Gates said, according to one participant. “That’s an open-ended, forever commitment.”
But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan — the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff.
“I wouldn’t say there was quite a ‘whoa’ moment,” a senior defense official said of the reaction around the table. “It was just sort of a recognition that, ‘Duh, that’s what in effect the commander understands he’s been told to do.’ Everybody said, ‘He’s right.’”
You’d think someone between the staffs would have figured this out in the half a year interval between assignment and briefing. And “impossible”? Come on. That may be hard, it may be not what we want to do, but impossible?
Update: Weekly Standard blames the NSC.