A week after Rolling Stone article led to the sacking of a general, the story still haunts the Afghanistan mission

Coalition forces killed in Afghanistan topped 100 in June, the war's highest monthly toll ever, which included 59 Americans.  New General in charge David Petraeus said yesterday (the same day the Senate confirmed his appointment 99-0) that "It may get more intense in the next few months."

Petraeus' confirmation comes on the same day that one of the country's top counter terrorism officials, Michael E. Leiter said that there were probably no more than 300 Al Qaeda leaders and fighters hiding out in Pakistan's tribal areas.  Add the "no more than 100" of the same that CIA Director Panetta said last Sunday, and that means there are over 90,000 American troops being shot at, going after less than 500 Al Qaeda members?  Something ain't adding up.

Also, although damning excerpts from Rolling Stone free-lancer Michael Hastings article on former General Stanley McChrystal and his effort in Afghanistan were reported a week ago Monday, leading to the General's resignation eight days ago, the summer double issue that includes that article didn't hit newsstands and subscribers until over the past weekend.

Reading it last night for the first time, what comes across as powerfully as any negative comments made by McChystal's staff about the Obama national security team is the negative vibe about the war itself.

Check out this paragraph deep into the story:

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn't begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular," a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn't prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. "There's a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here," a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

The piece ends with this very uninspiring coda:

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.

By the way, did any of you catch CBS News correspondent Laura Logan tee off on reporter Michael Hastings last week on CNN's Reliable Sources? She went off on Hastings (and Rolling Stone's) reporting, saying:

"Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me," she said, adding that she knows McChrystal's staff and McChrystal doesn't have a history of interacting with the press. "I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn't add up here. I just — I don't believe it. "

Host Howard Kurtz asked Logan if there is an "unspoken agreement that you're not going to embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter."

"Absolutely," she said. "Yes... there is an element of trust."

Logan also took exception with Hastings's claims — made earlier on the program to Kurtz — that his role as a journalist was to build trust with subjects so they feel comfortable speaking their minds around him.

Now Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi fights back in Rolling Stone online:

Let me just say one thing quickly: I don't know Michael Hastings. I've never met him and he's not a friend of mine. If he cut me off in a line in an airport, I'd probably claw his eyes out like I would with anyone else. And if you think I'm being loyal to him because he works for Rolling Stone, well – let's just say my co-workers at the Stone would laugh pretty hard at that idea.

But when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I'd known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it.

As Hastings reports in his piece however, General McChrystal had been protected by reporters for awhile - hence the fact that he never suffered deleteriously for his involvement in the Pat Tillman fiasco.  In any event, Petraeus, who dined with Vice President Joe Biden in Tampa last night, bids adieu from Central Command tonight, and heads over to Afghanistan on Friday.

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