Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gates Blindsided...Again

Bob Gates got blindsided this morning with a report in the New York Times on the Marine Corps pushing to have their forces withdrawn from Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan to take the lead in operations there.

On NPR Gates backed away from the report like both of ‘em carried a negative charge, mumbling something about he had heard…maybe it was an idea being kicked around by staffers…but really, it’s all just speculation...

Who knew that General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, was a “staffer”?

He is the one who raised the issue with Gates. Last week. In a closed door briefing. Just hours after Admiral Mike Mullen was sworn in as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If implemented, the plan would transform Iraq into an Army operation. While it is nothing more than a plan right now, it has some high-powered advocates, including some in the Army.

It represents the first radical shift in thinking that has been offered, and proponents say it would be a realignment of forces that would afford the Army and the Marines to increase operating efficiency and each service could map their own path for dealing with the strains and schisms that threaten the Army and Marines that have been created by Bush’s misguided and inept war policy.

Currently, there are no Marine Expeditionary Units operating in Afghanistan, in spite of the fact that MEU’s are uniquely suited to the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Marines train to fight in what is called a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. That term refers to a Marine deployment that arrives in a combat zone complete with its own headquarters, infantry combat troops, armored and transport vehicles and attack jets for close-air support, as well as logistics and support personnel.

“This is not about trading one ground war for another,” said one Pentagon official briefed on the Marine concept. “It is about the nature of the fight in Afghanistan, and figuring out whether the Afghan mission lends itself more readily to the integrated MAGTF deployment than even Iraq.”

It is likely an idea we need to be kicking around, but I am left to wonder about something else…Who is monkeywrenching Bob Gates at the Pentagon? This is not the first time he has been blindsided by news coming out of that five-sided building that left him caught unawares in front of the cameras and mikes. Remember, in April the news of extended tours was leaked. Back then, Larry Johnson and I wagered a beer on the source of that leak. I said a low level staffer, he said maybe a General who has had enough of the mendacity.

Now it is looking to me like I owe LJ that beer. This was leaked by someone with major juice. I am reading this as the top brass at the Pentagon have little or no regard for this administration, nor the Secretary of Defense that represents it.

And frankly, if Jim Webb hasn’t already taken up this cause by the time I hit “post” I will be disappointed.

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