Obama didn't understand what COIN meant. So McChrystal had to go.
Rolling Stone 'Runaway General' Reporter: Aloof Obama 'Didn’t Really Understand What Counterinsurgency Meant' By Jeff Poor (Bio | Archive) Wed, 06/23/2010 - 17:45 ET
While the media are attempting to grapple with the change in leadership of the Afghanistan war and what that all means, one thing that could be learned from this, which has been ignored, are valid criticisms of President Barack Obama and his ability to command the U.S. military.
Michael Hastings, author of the now-famous Rolling Stone magazine article "Runaway General" that captured several gotcha moments resulting in Obama relieving General Stanley McChrystal of his command, appeared on Al Jazeera English on June 23. He offered some startling insight into Obama's failure to grasp what he was actually getting into with this Afghanistan strategy known as the counterinsurgency strategy.
Hastings was asked if McChrystal had perhaps gotten the whole strategy wrong, but Hastings explained it was the President that didn't know what he was really getting into.
"I think that ship had sailed last year," Hastings said. "I think once the decision was made to do a counterinsurgency strategy, they had a pretty clear idea in mind what they wanted to do and I think this is quite interesting. I think this is one of the issues Obama didn't really understand what counter-insurgency meant and when the military said they wanted to do a counterinsurgency strategy that that actually meant 150,000 troops. Obama thought he could get away with just sending 21,000 over and getting a new general."
And as Hastings explained, Obama wasn't prepared due to this miscalculation.
"That clearly - anyone who has spent anytime around the military over the past few years you know, you know how many troops they wanted in Afghanistan all along, but I think Obama was clearly caught off guard by that," Hastings said.
Later in the interview, Hastings accused Obama of not dedicating a lot of his time into putting the counterinsurgency strategy (or COIN) in place. Instead the Rolling Stone reporter said Obama was looking for a quick way to fill a campaign promise with roughly a seventh of the troops needed to successfully implement the strategy.
"I think it's clear that [Defense Secretary Robert]Gates and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike] Mullen are big counterinsurgency fans and they sold Obama on the idea," Hastings explained. "I don't think Obama really put too much thought into it to be honest. I think it was a campaign promise that he thought he dealt with by just sending 21,000 troops and not really thinking about what that really meant. And that was clear even last August when, you know, Bob Woodward released that report of McChrystal's strategy - you know that the Obama administration was like, ‘Whoa, what does this mean?' And you know, I think anyone who knows anything about COIN - that's what they call counterinsurgency, knows that it takes a heck of a lot of guys, a heck of a lot of money and a heck of a long time."