Col. Ralph Peters: General Petraeus’s COIN Strategy Will Fail In Afghanistan

Apropos of the questions that Dave Schuler raises in his post, I found this discussion with Laura Ingraham and military analyst and author Ralph Peters from Friday to be very interesting, aside from Ingraham’s snarky and mostly irrelevant comments:

Essentially, Peters argues that the Counter-Insurgency strategy that famously worked well under Petraeus’s command in Iraq is completely ill-suited to the situation in Afghanistan and that, instead, we should be following some version of the Counter-Terrorism strategy that was advocated last year by Vice-President Biden, a strategy that would, of course, require a much smaller military footprint on the part of the United States.

Peters seems to think that the only hope in Afghanistan is for Petraeus to recognize that COIN will not work in Afghanistan and to convince the President to change his mind. The likelihood of this happening seems doubtful for two reasons. First of all, Petraeus made his career on COIN, and said during his confirmation hearings that he full supported the strategy that had been in place since November. Second, I’m not sure that the President would consider it politically viable to change strategies in mid-stream, and especially to one that will result in a significant withdrawal of troops during a time when both he and the Republicans will be preparing for the 2012 elections.

H/T: Cubachi

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    I hesitate to agree with Peters who is usually off the wall but in this case he’s broadly correct about the impossible nature of Petraeus’ mission in Afghanistan. My personal view has always been that the President is giving the military what they want but with not a lot of optimism about the outcome. At some point the penny is going to drop. Whether it’s Obama or Petraeus who drops it only time will prove. The problem is the Biden strategy doesn’t have much to recommend it either. Drones are a notorious cause of collateral civilian damage and you can’t plonk special forces in the Afghanistan landscape without massive air support on which they can call. Doug I’d also say you’re wrong about the US politics. The latest polls show majority support for the timeline to leave and my sense is the American public have written off this war even if Bill Kristol hasn’t. Another year of futile running around the mountains and there will no political price to pay, the Republicans might have to pay one for arguing for continuance!

  2. Tano says:

    Given Peters’ track record, and the general level of his analysis, why should anyone spend any time at all considering his opinions?

    “…convince the President to change his mind. The likelihood of this happening seems doubtful for two reasons. ”

    I can think of a more obvious third reason. Because neither Petreaus nor Obama think Peters’ critique makes any sense.

  3. Makes more sense than the strategy we’re pursuing now on the recommendation of both McChrystal and Petraeus