Having made the occupation of Afghanistan his centerpiece war, President Obama has repeatedly juggled the leadership of the conflict, and Gen. John Allen (Marines) has taken over today as the fourth commander of Obama’s two and a half years in office.
Allen follows in a trail of disastrous commanders that has included Gen. David McKiernan, who was constantly blaming the media for the worsening situation, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who managed to reduce civilian casualties but also oversaw enormous escalations of the war and a littany of failures leading to his being fired after a media interview.
That led the administration to tap Gen. David Petreaus as commander, a move which led to immediate predictions of victory but which, in reality, saw the situation continuing to worsen. The only thing Petraeus managed to reverse from the McChrystal era was the reduction of civilian deaths, as the toll is again on the rise.
Allen appears to be coming in with considerably lower expectations, and instead of making promises of changes claimed the war was going swimmingly against an “overconfident enemy” and seemed to promise more of the same as was seen under Petraeus. With Pentagon officials predicting at least another 3-4 years in the nation and military leaders lasting (if they’re lucky) 12 months, it seems the bar is set very low indeed.