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


Peter Van Buren

This post originally appeared on January 21, 2016 in Peter Van Buren’s blog.

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, U.S. 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 extra-marital 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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? U.S. 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 U.S. 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?

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11 thoughts on “Petraeus: ‘It’s Time to Unleash America’s Airpower in Afghanistan’

  1. Jolly good! Yes, the U.S./NATO (the latter’s involvement is no less absurd now than on Day One of the Afghan quagmire, since the region in question doesn’t exactly border on “the North Atlantic”) command has declared victory over the Taliban almost as many times as Mark Twain claimed to have quit smoking!! If not for the inconvenient truth that these military actions carried out in our names, with our tax dollars, kill and maim actual humans (and other living beings) on the ground, and destroy infrastructure much needed in that “godforsaken land,” the whole affair would be hysterically funny. Here’s a question I’ll toss on the table: Who really are the Taliban and what is their real origin? Back around the beginning of the Millennium we were told that Taliban means “students” (as in students of Islam), and that these mysterious fighters had crossed the mountainous passes from within Pakistan to set up shop in Afghanistan. To this day I have seen no satisfactory explanation of this outfit.

    It appears Petraeus is trying to boost the crop of Republican yahoo presidential contenders who are calling for “carpet bombing” any region of the globe that dares to resist Imperial USA’s attempts at domination. Look at how many of those rustbucket B-52s can still fly! Let’s put them to use, for God’s sake!! The “good” General may very well be trying to maneuver himself onto the GOP ticket for the VP slot. What’s a little extra-marital dalliance to an eager-beaver “Can do, Sir!” military knucklehead, after all?

  2. Either a debilitating stroke or impairment from a psychedelic acid trip gone horribly awry are each plausible explanations for this extreme disconnect from reality for the General, but there are other options. He could be angling for a position within a Republican administration twelve months from now (or with HRC, for that matter, although I do not think the Bern would be so inclined). Or maybe Petraeus has undergone a mind meld with Cruz. Or the Trumpster. Or perhaps both, with maybe even a little dash of Palin, to boot?

  3. Since when have the U.S. Air Farce, Canoe Club, Moron Corps or low-ground-seizing “Army” ever known a leash — other than the one they ruthlessly employ to extort obscene amounts of money from the hapless American civilian government that never holds them accountable for decades of abject failure? If anyone needs a leash, I’d recommend the self-promoting General David Petraeus who never succeeded at anything other than blowing his own horn.

    • Clearly it is the same “leash” that the average American know-nothing today will tell you was placed on the military during the war against Vietnam, preventing a US victory. Never underestimate the power of national amnesia/denial.

      • How far our leaders have sunk when political “seriousness” is equated with bombing. I’ve written a lot at this site on the “cult of bombing,” so I won’t repeat myself. But this whole mindset puts me to mind of the Indian village massacre scene in “Little Big Man,” and also Chief Dan George’s eloquent speech about the White man thinking that everything is dead — even their own people.

        I don’t know what the answer is — I really don’t.

      • Along with the clueless exhortation to “unleash” the never-leashed American military — which annually squanders over half of all U.S. government expenditures — I also loathe the oft-heard and equally mindless incantation to “rebuild” a bloated and wasteful military establishment that has never suffered a meaningful and necessary reduction since the end of the Second World War. Like Topsy, the slave girl in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the U.S. military and its industrial/Congressional appendages “just growed.” The monster has never required a reason or identifiable creator. Fear Itself, bureaucratic inertia, and simple human venality feed and sustain its insatiable, institutionalized aggrandizement. It has become the perfect combination of Parkinson’s Law and the Peter Principle: namely, that “the work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion” and “in a hierarchy, everyone tends to rise to their level of incompetence.”

        The mindless American military monster now drives all policy onward, relentlessly squeezing out alternative uses for government tax revenues, continually overbuilding and destroying at home and abroad, headless of any “leash” which might conceivably constrain its gargantuan appetites in any conceivable way. I wonder if anyone has ever sought to calculate the enormous human and material waste represented by all those Boy Scout decorations adorning the front of the general’s uniform.

  4. Fred Reed at Information Clearing House has an excellent rant relevant to this subject. Check our Emancipating the Military, Containing the Citizenry.

    As well, the failed and defrocked former General David Petraeus might want to look up the meaning of The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, which in states that the more you do of something, the less you keep getting in return. In terms of the failed American War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) this meant that, after only a short period of time bombing the easily identifiable “high value” targets, the U.S. military found itself dispatching monstrously expensive aircraft carrier battle groups halfway around the world to bomb bamboo bridges that the Vietnamese could replace overnight at practically no cost at all. Impending economic ruin eventually caused the U.S. government to abandon the whole miserable enterprise.

    Now we have the learning impaired General David Petraeus recommending that the U.S. military embark upon yet another Diminishing Returns bombing extravaganza fourteen years after every conceivable target in the Afghanistan has already become a pile of rubble due to fourteen years of pointless U.S. bombing. What does this idiot military pretender hope to accomplish by making the rubble bounce a little higher? One would think that the U.S. military has only one identifiable function: squandering vast sums of money and seeing to it that corporate CEOs and retired military officers — but I repeat myself — continue to enrich themselves in the process of doing the stupidly unnecessary.

    Where does America get certifiable morons like Petraeus? Certainly not from the deep end of the nation’s intellectual gene pool.

    • Mike: So much of what happens “over there” (to include bombing) is for domestic political advantage. Or for economic profit. And of course you know this.

      Petraeus seems to have some smarts — but in a limited way. If this were 1966, he’d fit in perfectly with that era’s “best and brightest,” advocating (as they did) for more bombing to “win” the war in Vietnam.

      His “moronic” advice is the kind of in-bred, self-referential, and hidebound thinking that rigid hierarchical systems tend to produce. I think of what my church — the Catholic Church — did with the pedophile priest scandal as yet another example of this. The cardinals and bishops — smart in their own way — acted as moral midgets. Perhaps as amoral midgets. The church’s reputation meant more than the lives of innocents: exactly the reverse of the professed ideals of the church.

      Our “defense” department is supposed to be defending us, yet their violent actions overseas are making us less safe while taking the lives of innocents, exactly the reverse of their professed ideals.

      Dark days, Mike.

      • But, gents, as Jello Biafra of the only TRUE punk band, The Dead Kennedys, said when Reagan moved from the California Governor’s Mansion to the White House: “We’ve got a bigger problem now.” The mainstream media tell me that Ted Cruz is “surging” and Glenn Beck has proclaimed him “the new George Washington”!!! What the hell can THAT possibly mean?!? That he will lead “a new American Revolution”? [I object to the notion that what started in 1775-76 was any kind of revolution. It WAS, however, a War for Independence, led by the then-version of “the 1%” so that THEY and their heirs, not the British Crown, would profit from the “New World”‘s tremendous resources.] Sword in one hand and, of course, Bible in the other?? Ted Cruz, Father of the Christian Theocracy these yo-yos have been hankering for for decades now??? The Evangelicals greatly favor Cruz over the dubiously pious Trump. In my opinion, anyone proclaiming at this point that Hillary will easily vanquish this true Army of Evil is dangerously naive about the state of American politics today.

      • You have a good point there Bill. Maybe we should go back to that department’s real name which up until about 1947 or so was THE DEPARTMENT OF WAR.

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