War buddies: Petraeus and Natyncyzk face Afghanistan - Macleans.ca

War buddies: Petraeus and Natyncyzk face Afghanistan

Both hit their strides as soldiers in Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003


It’s no surprise that Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, is praising his old friend Gen. David Petraeus as a grand choice to replace Gen. Stanley “Runaway” McChrystal as the new American commander in Afghanistan.

Both Natynczyk and Petraeus hit their strides as soldiers  in Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Petraeus commanded the 101st Airborne Division out of Baghdad in those days, while Natynczyk, on loan to the U.S. military, served in Baghdad as deputy commanding general of the multi-national corps—even though Canada, as you might recall, officially stayed out of that war.

How much the two generals’ shared understanding of Iraq can be applied directly to the situation in Afghanistan, though, is wide open to debate. Petraeus is the famous strategist who oversaw the U.S. reversal of fortune in Iraq, orchestrating the troop surge and fostering the so-called “Sunni Awakening” partly by paying local Sunni leaders to ally themselves with the Americans and fight Al-Qaeda.

But Petraeus has rightly voiced skepticism about drawing comparisons between Iraq and Afghanistan. History teaches that Kabul has only occasionally exerted much control over the country, whereas strong regimes have traditionally ruled from Baghdad. Restoring a central government tradition is surely easier than inventing one.

Petraeus’s counter-insurgency doctrine, which McChrystal had been struggling to implement, calls for winning over the locals, rather than just winning battles. It demands lots of troops and plenty of patience. Yet U.S. President Obama has promised to begin drawing down American forces from Afghanistan next summer, when a complete Canadian withdrawal is also slated to start.

Experts are guessing that Petraeus, at least, will want to maintain U.S. strength on the ground as long as is politically possible. The Finance Times reports that “military analysts say that Gen Petraeus will be in a much stronger condition to negotiate with Mr Obama over the pace and speed of the US military drawdown” than McChrystal had been.

As for Natynczyk, he hasn’t breathed a public word I’ve heard that sounds like he’s pushing back against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s exit timetable.  Still, in the past, Natynczyk has expressed a preference for giving Afghans assurance that they won’t be abandoned. “Where you can have that enduring footprint and provide Afghans with security,” he once said, “you actually hear from them who are the bad guys, who are the Taliban in the region.”

Just now, it’s easy to imagine ordinary Afghans feeling not particularly secure about Western forces and those bad guys thinking that all they have to do is wait.


War buddies: Petraeus and Natyncyzk face Afghanistan

  1. we have devolved from peacekeeping to ending the lives of others who were no particular threat to us. No matter how well these two get along it Canada that is deteriorating to the US level.

    • Get your head out of your butt. Peacekeeping has been and always will be a secondary duty of the CF.

    • Nazi Germany wasn't a realistic threat to Canada either in the 1930s, but we still signed up to fight in 1939 anyhow.

      Just because someone or some organization isn't currently blowing up your buildings and buses at this very moment doesn't mean that they won't be a year from now. Do you really think the Taleban are just going to pretend nothing happened when we bail on Afghanistan next year? I think we both know that they'll simply brutally sweep back into power while we sit back and watch the carnage and shrug, "at least it's not us". Can you live with that attitude knowing that you're part of the reason mass murder will be carried out to punish all those who collaborated with the Westerners?

      Frankly, I think it's a entirely far fetched not to assume that unless Afghanistan is brought to a state of stable ongoing security, that the Taleban won't recognize that they'll never be ruthless dictators again, and should re-ingegrate with civilized society, that the Taleban aren't going to be steadfast in their mindless vengence against the West.

      • Here we go with the WW2 comparison… Geez….

  2. The new Chief of Land Staff, Gen. Devlin, also served with Petraeus in Iraq.

  3. Good luck General Petraeus, you're going to need it. You've got a year before all the nearsighted flakes (left and right wingers) in the west force their governments to bail on the ISAF.

  4. Er – Dear far sighted NRM – the flakes would like you to explain why we are there NOW?
    Bin Laden is long gone – and Karzai would like us to be his private army while he plays footsie under the table with the Taliban…

  5. I can remember a time when the mere suggestion of a canadian pullout was enough to label you as a "taliban lover" and a traitor to this country.

    How things have changed….

    • Simply put; Canadians have asked a lot of the small group of our citizenry that are soldiers. While equipment funding and recruiting aren't in the dark days they were once in, they also haven't reached the levels to a point where they can maintain extended missions without suffering burnout.
      "Peace-keeping" also requires the participating nations to supply their own equipment and man power. So the burnout is hardly at fault of being a NATO led mission.

  6. Petreaus Passed out at a recent meeting
    I wonder if he is fit to even be in the military
    He just don't look right to me

  7. Every Canadian should be ashamed that their armed forces are part of this murderous campaign in a country that has nothing to do with Canada.
    to support a corrupt government with its fixed elections is disgusting.