Remember how when pressured to get the troops out of Middle East, Republicans insisted that we needed to listen to the generals on the ground? We apparently didn't ask the necessary follow up question: who were the generals listening to? And in the case of Gen. David Petraeus, that answer was disturbingly neo-conservative:
Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, a husband-and-wife team of hawkish military analysts, put their jobs at influential Washington think tanks on hold for almost a year to work for Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Provided desks, e-mail accounts and top-level security clearances in Kabul, they pored through classified intelligence reports, participated in senior-level strategy sessions and probed the assessments of field officers in order to advise Petraeus about how to fight the war differently.[..]
Petraeus allowed his biographer-turned-paramour, Paula Broadwell, to read sensitive documents and accompany him on trips. But the entree granted the Kagans, whose think-tank work has been embraced by Republican politicians, went even further. The four-star general made the Kagans de facto senior advisers, a status that afforded them numerous private meetings in his office, priority travel across the war zone and the ability to read highly secretive transcripts of intercepted Taliban communications, according to current and former senior U.S. military and civilian officials who served in the headquarters at the time.
The Kagans used those privileges to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, including a harder-edged approach than some U.S. officers advocated in combating the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction in eastern Afghanistan, the officials said.The pro-bono relationship, which is now being scrutinized by military lawyers, yielded valuable benefits for the general and the couple.
Kagan and his wife took no money for their service, remaining on the payroll of their respective think tanks. Kimberly Kagan's organization was funded primarily by defense contractors, as if there wasn't enough conflict of interest to be concerned about. But ask yourself, what special knowledge did the Kagans have to advise Petraeus?
Not a whole heck of a lot:
Before the Iraq war hit rock bottom, the Kagans were little-known academics with doctorates in military history from Yale University who taught at West Point. He specialized in the Soviets, she in the ancient Greeks and Romans.
But they milked this relationship with Petraeus and his successor, Stanley McChrystal, in a big way, even complaining to Petraeus when they felt McChrystal was not as forthcoming with classifed documents. And through it all, they continually advocated for the neo-conservative agenda and their own status in DC circles:
"[The Kagans] are given credit for having snatched victory in Iraq from the jaws of defeat," Lobe tells Antiwar.com. "You would think the Kagans and other neoconservatives would be discredited because of their advocacy of the Iraq War itself. But they aren’t."
Instead, Kimberly Kagan has increasingly become a spear point for advancing the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. And why not? She is young, attractive in that wonky, austere Washingtonian way, and seemingly unflappable as she discharges fusillades of talking points like a machine gun. One look at her March 2007 performance on Washington Journal circa Surge I and it’s clear why Kagan has replaced the old neoconservative guard as a primary surrogate for the cause.
During the Surge, Kagan was prolific in her "Iraq Reports" for The Weekly Standard. Recreating her "battlefield circulations," her front line missives conveyed the Surge in a way that can only be described as "strategic communications" in motion. When the magazine announced Kagan’s series, The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan wisely pointed out its superficiality in a post, "Mrs. Kagan Reviews Her Own Idea (And Her Husband’s)":
"Kimberly Kagan is listed as one of the participants in her husband’s research team that came up with the surge in the first place. So when the Weekly Standard decided to compile a regular report on the surge’s progress, they picked the wife of the main author and one of the plan’s original architects. And they never disclosed these relevant facts. So allow me."
There is little doubt that the surge and our continued presence in Afghanistan is due in no small part to the work of the Kagans. And if they continue to retain this level of influence over our policy, we will not leave for a very long, long time.