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The Passing of a Giant

Pentagon wargames Afghanistan plans

As you would assume they have been, the Pentagon is reported to have wargamed the two most likely scenarios for Afghanistan.

The exercise, led by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, examined the likely outcome of inserting 44,000 more troops into the country to conduct a full-scale counterinsurgency effort aimed at building a stable Afghan government that can control most of the country. It also examined adding 10,000 to 15,000 more soldiers and Marines as part of an approach that the military has dubbed "counterterrorism plus."

Apparently Biden's Magic Ninja option didn't make the cut. The military thought so much of his strategerizing that they refused to even write up a treatment of it.

People familiar with the internal debates say Mr. Obama rejected a strictly counter-terror approach during White House deliberations in early October. One official said Pentagon strategists were asked to draft brief written arguments making the best case for each strategy, but the strategists had difficulties writing out a credible case for the counter-terror approach -- prompting members of Mr. Biden's staff to step in and write the document themselves.

Back to the wargaming.

Both options were drawn from a detailed analysis prepared by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior commander in Afghanistan, and were forwarded to President Obama in recent weeks by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The Pentagon war game did not formally endorse either course; rather, it tried to gauge how Taliban fighters, the Afghan and Pakistani governments and NATO allies might react to either of the scenarios. Mullen, a key player in the game, has discussed its conclusions with senior White House officials involved in the discussions over the new strategy.

They do not release the results, but the answer is not tough to glean from this.

One of the exercise's key assumptions is that an increase of 10,000 to 15,000 troops would not in the near future give U.S. commanders the forces they need to take back havens from the Taliban commanders in southern and western Afghanistan, where shadow insurgent governors collect taxes and run court systems based on Islamic sharia law.

The folks who do this for a living have made it pretty crystal clear that we either make a full effort on this, or we ought to quit. Throwing a few more troops into play for a strategy that has little chance of success would be shameful, spineless politics. It would take more guts to pull out if Obama is not going to aim for a win. If he is not resolved to try he should do that, if not he should listen to his Generals. Make the call!