[I]n Iraq, General Petraeus was very good but also very lucky. His Baghdad security operations coincided with a Mahdi Army ceasefire, a tribal rebellion in Anbar Province and the effects of a brutal civil war fought out in 2006. In Afghanistan, by contrast, government corruption and Pakistani support for militant groups undermines U.S. and allied efforts.
General Petraeus will likely continue the counterinsurgency strategy set in motion by General McChrystal. But unlike in Iraq, he is liable to find not only the Taliban but also his nominal allies threatening progress every step of the way.
Keep in mind that Exum is a former Ranger, fellow at CNAS, a leading defense think-tank and hot-bed of COINdinistas, and actually took part in the major Afghanistan strategy review a couple years back. He is not a peacenik or a COIN skeptic. And his take on the situation is far from positive.
In an Op-Ed today, Tom Ricks makes the case for firing Holbrooke and Eikenberry as well. Kori Schake makes the same argument in the previous piece. Ricks also urges the Army to be quicker on the trigger with firing generals, so as to foster a new generation of innovative flag officers.
No policy can be successful if those sent to put it in place undermine one another with snide comments to reporters and leaked memorandums like the cable disparaging Mr. Karzai written by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry last year. For this reason, the president should finish cleaning house and fire Ambassador Eikenberry and the special envoy, Richard Holbrooke.
This is probably a good idea. At the very least, Obama needs to have a no-bullshit talk with Petraeus about whether or not keeping them in place will help him succeed. If the answer is anything but a firm "these guys are the right guys for the job," they should be fired. Unity of effort is paramount, if this is to work.