Petraeus: ‘It’s Time To Unleash America’s Airpower in Afghanistan’

In an Op-Ed printed in the Washington Post, former General David Petraeus says it is time to “unleash our airpower in support of our Afghan partners in the same way that we support our Iraqi and Syrian partners against extremists.”

Petraeus went on to claim:

At present, U.S. and NATO airpower in Afghanistan is used only to attack validated al-Qaeda targets, to counter specific individuals or groups who have attacked coalition forces previously and to respond directly to attacks on coalition forces. According to leaders on the ground, US and NATO forces are otherwise not allowed to attack Taliban targets. The situation appears to be in flux in regard to Islamic State elements, but through 2015, they too could be targeted only under narrow circumstances.

The former general, who lead the failed Surge in Iraq, and former head of the CIA, who was thrown out of the job after his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, and after his being convicted of exposing classified information, went on to say:

We have the tools in place to step up our game considerably. When combined with a motivated and competent ground force, airpower can be quite effective. This was witnessed in 2001, when US airpower and special operatives worked with the Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban from power.

So at this point one must ask the key question: has Petraeus had a stroke or is he on Acid, because otherwise his statements ignore reality, perhaps the laws of time and space themselves.

To begin, Petraeus’ statement that airpower in 2001 “ousted the Taliban,” a statement made without apparent irony, would be hilarious if it was not utterly tragic. Petraeus seems to have missed a few meetings, at which he would have learned that since those victories in 2001 the Taliban has been doing just fine, thanks. The US has remained inside the Afghan quagmire for more than 14 more years, and currently has no end game planned for the war. Air power, with or without “a motivated and competent ground force” (as if such a thing can ever exist in Afghanistan, we’ve been training and equipping there for 14 years), never is enough. There are examples to draw from going back into WWI.

It is also unclear on what information Petraeus is basing his statements that the US is broadly “not allowed to attack Taliban targets.” Petraeus only refers to “leaders on the ground” as his source. We’d sure like to hear more about that.

And, David, how the hell did ISIS come into existence anyway, and how did they get into Afghanistan? US have anything to do with that?

I get it. I get why the failed options are still so attractive. Bombing and drones are believed by the majority of Americans to be surgical procedures that kill lots of bad guys, not too many innocents, and no Americans at all. As Washington regularly imagines it, once air power is in play, someone else’s boots will eventually hit the ground. A handful of Special Forces troops, American boots-sorta-on-the-ground, will turn the tide. Washington will collect and hold together some now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t “coalition” to abet the task at hand. It all sounds good, even though it is not.

Petraeus failed in Iraq (that war is still going on and on) and he failed at CIA. Oh, and yes, in 2010 Petraeus served as the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, a period in which insurgent attacks on coalition forces spiked to record levels, and violence metastasized to previously stable areas.

So the most important question of all is why anyone is still listening to David Petraeus?

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

6 thoughts on “Petraeus: ‘It’s Time To Unleash America’s Airpower in Afghanistan’”

  1. Peter you have no idea what you’re talking about. From a tactical perspective, employment of ADMs in support of AFG forces absolutely impacts the outcome of an engagement.
    From a laymen perspective, your pejorative pros above sound sensible, but from a person who has been here since the beginning and truly understands the challenges associated with AFG military, geography, culture, and politics, you are wholly uninformed.

    Once more your personal attacks on a man that has dedicated his life to out National security…really? Maybe you’ve never done anything wrong in your life, so excuse my indignant response toward your seemingly arrogant judgment.
    I would ask that you put your energy toward something more helpful, like purposing tangible solutions instead of your “magic wand statements.”

    1. “Maybe you’ve never done anything wrong in your life”?

      Yeah, I’ve f**ked up a lot but I’ve never torpedoed a whole region into f**king anarchy. Give me a break!

  2. I always remember that Vietnamese girl on fire that came across my tv screen . I don’t want to fight communism any more this way . I would have bee perfectly happy to bomb ISIL when they were in their Toyota pickups travelling from town to town . But terrorist bombing civilians is not my cup of tea .

  3. Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban were never allies. I suspect that BL considered the Taliban to be a backward if not contemptible form of Islam but he got from them useful training space for AQ terrorist attacks in return for becoming their paymaster. There should never have been a war against the Taliban and our current useless war ought to stop.

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