Top American and International Security Assistance Force commander General Stanley McChrystal is getting set to testify before the Senate and the House this week. Here are some of the questions we’d ask, if we were Congresscritters. Tack on your own questions in the comments.
* You’ve said the primary mission of ISAF forces should be to secure the population. So why are 9,000 of the 30,000 surge troops headed to largely rural Helmand province? Why are Marines now assaulting thelargely abandoned city of Now Zad?
* Counterinsurgencies are most successful when troops live among the population. Remind me: How many ISAF troops are currently stationed at the giant military bases at Kandahar and Bagram Air Fields?
* You’ve said that training the Afghan army and police is now the primary mission there. So why are you devoting only one of the surge brigades to that task?
* What good are more cops and soldiers, if the government that controls them is still corrupt?
* Your boss, General David Petraeus, described Afghanistan and Pakistan as a “single theater” of war. How often do you work with the American officials conducting the war on the Pakistani side?
* You’ve been able to reduce civilian casualties by severely restricting air strikes. But that’s also put ISAF forces at risk. Have any troops been hurt or killed as a result of lack of air support?
* Despite your rules on air strikes, there have been several instances of ISAF bombing runs killing large numbers of civilians. What are the results of the investigations into the September 4th air strikes on Kunduz? The November 6th air strike in Baghdis province?
* Do you expect the rules of engagement for air strikes to change, with the escalation of the war?
* By some estimates, as many as
1,000 320 civilians have been killed by American air strikes in Pakistan. Should your rules of engagement be applied to Pakistan, too?
* In your tactical guidance, you told ground commanders to consider retreating, rather than fire into populated compounds. How often has that happened?
* In your August assessment, you stressed the need for ISAF troops to learn Afghanistan’s local culture. How many troops currently speak more than 10 words of Pashto or Urdu?
* Fuel can cost the military as much as $400 per gallon in Afghanistan, after all the logistical costs are added in. What’s being done to reduce those logistical costs — or our troops’ reliance on fuel?
* The current offensive in Helmand province is named “Cobra’s Anger.” Will other operations have such awesome monikers? Will they also evoke Saturday morning cartoons? May we suggest “Decepticon Fury?”
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman wants to know “which population centers will we secure, and which areas will we neglect? What’s the measurement? And how do we mitigate against insurgents taking hold in the places we’re not going?” Adam Serwer wants to know what’s up with the black jail at Bagram.
Josh Foust weighs in with some doozies, including perhaps the most important question of all: “Tell me how this ends. What’s your idea end-state? What is an unacceptable end state? At what point do you think the costs of our continued involvement outweigh any potential or actual benefits we can get?”
* Given the many problems with ANA and ANP training, retention, and operational capacity, how will you balance an accelerated force expansion with training requirements?
* Today, Admiral Stavridis suggested Iraq, the Balkans, and Central America as models for Afghanistan. Is a half-dysfunctional narco-state with an active terrorist movement really the best we can hope for?
* Why is the North being conceded? Why is religious language being invoked (”going after the Taliban’s religious center”) when discussing escalation in Kandahar? Do you find that problematic?
* Do you see a danger in the war in the south morphing from a counterinsurgency to a counternarcotics war? Why should our soldiers fight and die to clear some poppy fields? Do you think the public would support the war if it looks like it is focusing on opium-rich areas and ignoring Taliban-rich areas like Kunduz, Paktika, and Kunar?
* How does this escalation put pressure on the militias operating in Pakistan?