"Paris – July 27, 2010 – While it is unquestionable that Barack Obama made the war in Afghanistan “his” war, it also is true that it was served to him on a platter and with a gun pressed against his back.
It was in fact the Pentagon’s chosen war. Had he refused to fight it, Pentagon insider stories, the opposition press and the Republican party would have attacked him and his new administration as demonstrating incompetence to deal with world affairs, naïve and pacifist inclinations, and willingness to “surrender” to terrorism.
Mr. Obama, a presidential candidate wholly without military experience, decided to forestall the inevitable attacks upon him as incapable to deal with security issues, by accompanying his promise to end George W. Bush’s Iraq war and making peace in Iraq (yet to be accomplished -- as was foreseeable at the time) by relaunching and winning “the right war,” the war in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
This was a half-baked notion, since al Qaeda’s survival as a serious terrorist organization, rather than an internationally notorious franchise for homegrown terrorism, was at the time doubted, and the Taliban were clearly a domestic Afghan political and social phenomenon possessing no international dimension other than in neighboring Pakistan. They had neither the design nor the capability to attack the United States or Europe – nor any interest in doing so.
The Taliban had done nothing directly to harm the United States, but those in the United States who for various reasons wanted the war in Afghanistan prosecuted by Washington held that unless the United States defeated the Taliban and controlled Afghanistan, that country would be forever a “safe haven” for terrorism. Much the same thing could be said of most of the world’s unoccupied spaces (including Utah and Idaho).
The ascendant force in the Pentagon when Obama took office was a group of younger officers associated with David Petraeus, author of a restatement of classical political as well as military anti-insurgent tactics in a forthcoming Army Field Manual. He had been named commandant of Central Command (covering the Middle East and Central Asia) by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and in turn placed a protégé, General Stanley McChrystal, in command in Afghanistan. Petraeus was credited with what actually was not (and still is not) “victory” in Iraq because he had recommended and commanded the “surge” of reinforcements sent into Iraq in 2007-08, and was associated with the program that had recruited and paid Sunni tribal forces to restore order in their own tribal areas by driving out al Qaeda’s supporters (tacitly in support of the dominant Shia political forces in Baghdad, expected to win the forthcoming 2010 parliamentary elections and form an independent coalition government -- which has yet to happen)."