Petraeus Uses a Word the President Avoids to Describe Goal in Afghanistan

General_David_PetraeusThe first six words (bolded by me) of Deb Riechmann's report from Kabul, Afghanistan for the Associated Press are refreshing:
"We are in this to win," Gen. David Petraeus said as he took the reins of an Afghan war effort troubled by waning support, an emboldened enemy, government corruption and a looming commitment to withdraw troops - even with no sign of violence easing.

It would have been even more refreshing if the AP's Riechmann, who obviously felt compelled to tick off as many of the reasons Petraeus and the troops he leads may not meet the goal as quickly as possible, would have reminded readers that Petraeus's boss, President Barack Obama, has been decidedly allergic to using the words "win" and "victory" in Afghanistan since his inauguration. One of her later paragraphs presented a perfect opportunity to remind readers of the president's aversion. She passed; she shouldn't have.

Petraeus, thankfully, feels no need to hold back, as noted later in Reichmann's report (bolds are mine):

... "We are engaged in a contest of wills," Petraeus said Sunday as he accepted the command of U.S. and NATO forces before several hundred U.S., coalition and Afghan officials who gathered on a grassy area outside NATO headquarters in Kabul.

... "In answer, we must demonstrate to the people and to the Taliban that Afghan and international forces are here to safeguard the Afghan people, and that we are in this to win," Petraeus said on the Fourth of July, U.S. Independence Day.

Continual discussion about President Barack Obama's desire to start withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011 has blurred the definition of what would constitute victory. That coupled with the abrupt firing of Petraeus' predecessor, a move that laid bare a rift between civilian and military efforts in the country, has created at least the perception that the NATO mission needs to be righted.

... June was the deadliest month for the allied force since the war began, with 102 U.S. and international troops killed.

... "After years of war, we have arrived at a critical moment," Petraeus said. "We must demonstrate to the Afghan people - and to the world - that al-Qaida and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world."

Petraeus suggested he would refine - or at least review - the implementation of rules under which NATO soldiers fight, including curbs on the use of airpower and heavy weapons if civilians are at risk, "to determine where refinements might be needed."

In a March 27, 2009 address at the Council on Foreign Relations, President Obama outlined a "Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan." The words "win" and "victory" or synonyms of those words do not appear. The closest he got was a promise "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future." Later in the speech, he said: "To the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you."

Maybe that suffices for some, but then there was this incident, four months later, as reported by the AP:

President Barack Obama says he's uncomfortable using the word "victory" to describe the United States' goal in Afghanistan. He says the U.S. fight there is against broader terrorism and not a nation.

... When Obama delivered a speech in March about his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, he did not use the word "victory."

Obama spoke with ABC's "Nightline" while traveling to Ohio and Illinois.

A lengthier report at Fox News included this nugget: 
"We're not dealing with nation states at this point. We're concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda's allies," he (Obama) said. "So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States."

The only sure way to "to make sure they can't attack the United States" is to kill or capture as many of their members as possible until the rest surrender or disband and permanently give up their terrorist ways -- in other words, to win (i.e., achieve v-v-v-v ... victory in) the unconventional war we are fighting against them.

Rhetorical reluctance aside, one can only hope that President Obama will let General Petraeus do what must be done to win, even if he (Obama) will probably never acknowledge it when it occurs -- just as he has never acknowledged the victory in Iraq (Petraeus, as shown here, more than likely has).

Cross-posted at

Foreign Policy War on Terrorism Media Bias Debate Military Afghanistan Taliban Bias by Omission Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press Online Media General David Petraeus Deb Riechmann

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