General Krulak appears unsure as to whether al-Qaeda and the Taliban are our enemies, and whether the United States has an interest in preventing Taliban control of Afghanistan. Exactly eight years ago today, al-Qaeda operatives supported by the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan murdered 3,000 Americans on American soil. The answer to the general's question is yes - al-Qaeda and the Taliban are America's enemies.
General Krulak advocates the use of 'hunter-killer teams' backed by airpower governed by minimal rules of engagement to 'take out the bad guys.' This light footprint tactic has failed for the last eight years. Aircraft operating with few or no ground forces cannot distinguish between insurgents and innocent civilians. Minimal rules of engagement result in maximum civilian casualties, tacitly assisting our enemies as they seek sanctuary and support from civilian populations.
General Krulak misrepresents the manpower requirements necessary for success in Afghanistan. Most of the troops required to provide security for the Afghan people can and will come from the Afghans themselves. Indeed, the most important task for American military forces is to strengthen the capabilities of Afghan security forces to accomplish this task.
General Krulak speculates that the American people would not provide the resources necessary to prevail in Afghanistan. While every citizen is entitled to his or her opinion, it's not clear that General Krulak has any particular expertise in the area of domestic American political opinion.
What's more certain is that the American people and their elected representatives have provided virtually everything asked of them by our military leaders. If there are insufficient resources to prevail in Afghanistan, it is the responsibility of senior military officers and other leaders within the executive branch to ask for more. It is dismaying that a retired general officer would advocate abandoning the war in Afghanistan out of concern for its impact on military personnel or equipment. We must tailor our forces to meet the demands of our wars, rather than vice versa.
After eight years of war, we have learned some hard lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan, including:
* Al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates pose a serious threat to the security of the United States, our people and our allies
* Airpower and special operations forces are a necessary part of any counter-terrorism operation, but in and of themselves are insufficient to deny sanctuary to terrorist organizations.
* Developing host-nation security forces is an essential component of counterinsurgency operations. These forces are more credible, more enduring and more cost-effective than relying exclusively or primarily on U.S. forces.
* It is the responsibility of general officers to ask for the resources necessary to win our wars.
I respect General Krulak for his decades of service to our country. However, I was dismayed that any officer, active or retired, could still hold the views attributed to him on September 11, 2009.