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Hersh: Obama finally ‘taking control’ on Afghanistan

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In the wake of an AP report on Wednesday that President Barack Obama is not satisfied with any of the options on Afghanistan he has received from his national security team and is demanding revisions, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow turned to veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh for insight.

“It could be huge,” Hersh told Maddow, “simply that the president’s finally saying, ‘I’m taking control.'”

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“The one thing that mystified a lot of people,” Hersh explained, “was the decision to let General McChrystal write a report. There’s no general in history that will come back, given that assignment, and say ‘We can’t win.'”

“This is basically a war, at best, that’s going to be a stalemate,” continued Hersh. “And so Obama is just putting his foot down, and that’s great. … He’s grabbing it and he hasn’t been grabbing it until now.”

Hersh also commented on a New York Times story which revealed that the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, former Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, had cabled Washington last week to express “his reservations about deploying additional troops to the country,” thereby putting himself “in stark opposition to the current American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has asked for 40,000 more troops.”

Hersh described Eikenberry’s cable as “big news,” especially because Eikenberry has been one of a group of generals — which also includes McChrystal, Petraeus, and Odierno — who graduated from West Point around 1973-75 and have stuck together over the years as what is seen by other military leaders as a “West Point Mafia.”

According to Hersh, this has caused “a lot of trauma within the Army, which is very resentful. … The top of the Army … they’ve been very unhappy with the McChrystal appointment and the way things have been going.”

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That is why Hersh sees it as significant that Eikenberry is now steering an independent course. “This summer inside the embassy,” he told Maddow, “there was a lot of concerns about the stability — literally the mental stability — of Karzai. And I think Eikenberry probably knows more than most people.”

“Eikenberry is simply, I think, reflecting a huge split,” Hersh concluded, “because he’s now splitting from the McChrystal counter-insurgency wing that’s been dominated by Petraeus.”

Hersh called his conclusion about Eikenberry a “heuristic guess,” but it is supported by one online analysis which tracks Eikenberry’s statements since 2007 and suggests that “General McChrystal is on a special mission based a specific philosophy of warfare and that General Eikenberry is performing his duty according to his current assignment with an ongoing evaluation of the various players and facts at hand.”

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“General Eikenberry is both a soldier and scholar of history and political science,” this analysis concludes. “He knows the history of occupations that fail to deliver for the populace and he’s telling us right now that the U.S. can’t succeed with more military forces in a nation run by an illegitimate president who has been exposed for election fraud. More troops are not the solution.”

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 11, 2009.

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