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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan Surge’

When I posted this in November 2009 at the tail end of Hillary’s busy tour of Asia that month,  everyone was surprised.  Security was so high that the visit was not announced until she was safely on the ground.

Breaking News…Hillary Wheels Down in Afghanistan

There was this 4-column spread photo on the front page of the New York Times.

front_page_nyt_11-19-09

In chapter 7 Hillary refers to a day at the White House that month when there were three important meetings the last of which, in the Situation Room,  yielded our military roadmap out of Afghanistan.

Sometimes during her State Department tenure, the public schedule would state that she had “No Public Appointments.”  Often I would clarify here that those words did not indicate that she was not working.  They meant that her work that day was not for publication.  She places these meetings three days before Thanksgiving, 2009. That puts it here, and we knew something big was up.

The Busy Monday Continues

We learn some of what went into her thinking as these deliberations proceeded.  Hillary is a Methodist, and very methodical, but she goes through something of a Catholic examination of conscience in this chapter seeking to discover what has worked and what lessons might be found in past miscalculations.

She revisits her past trips to Afghanistan as well as her Iraq War vote and the rationale behind that.  She flat out calls that vote a mistake.  I still think she provided very rigid parameters for the president in her remarks before casting that vote, but this is her call, not mine.  Here are those remarks,  and I believe she explained her position very clearly and did not provide the president an open playing field.

Time to Revisit Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War Vote

We also hear who the players in the Situation Room were and their positions and roles in the deliberations.  No one will be surprised that a great deal of the action centers around Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.  Once a surge had been agreed upon it was, according to her account, their calculation of the ‘Goldilocks’ number of troops necessary on which the effectiveness of the surge would rest.

As in real life, Richard Holbrooke looms large in this chapter and has enormous impact on policy in the Af-Pak region he accepted to oversee.  It is not only Hillary in Hard Choices who speaks of hostility from the White House staff toward Holbrooke.  Vali Nasr, a member of Holbrooke’s team, and now Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies recounts White House offensives against Holbrooke in his 2013 book, The Dispensable Nation.  Hillary’s account is briefer with less detail, but it does lead to attempts by his adversaries to have Holbrooke fired.  Hillary defends him, and President Obama accepts the defense.

 

Also looming large in this chapter, of course, is Hamid Karzai with whom Hillary met on many occasions.   One of these that she singles out as particularly productive occurred during his May 2010 visit to the U.S.

At Dumbarton Oaks: Hillary Clinton & Hamid Karzai

All of this is background to her visit to Afghanistan in November 2009 where she smashed on the tarmac, with all the style, grace, and panache of Helen Mirren smashing on a red carpet,  and attended Karzai’s inauguration.

Hillary Rodham Clinton


The truth is that in the book she does not even talk about most of the following events..  She was there for the inauguration.  There simply was no way that I could look back on that visit without including these events and photos.


Photos of the Day: Secretary Clinton in Afghanistan

Secretary Clinton’s Press Conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Secretary Clinton’s Address to U.S. and International Troops in Afghanistan

Photo Gallery: Hillary with Our Troops in Afghanistan

This is the real Hillary!

Hillary at the Embassy and Foreign Ministry in Kabul

 The upshot of all of this was, of course, the Afghanistan surge.  She closes the chapter with a summary of Afghanistan’s progress since 2010 on crucial issues, a hat tip to much-maligned General Eric Shinseki for his (rejected) 2003 recommendations to the Bush administration, and her account of the trip from the White House to West Point where President Obama unrolled the blueprint for departure from Afghanistan before an auditorium packed with cadets who soon would inherit the fight.

Afghanistan Speech: Photos and Text

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

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