Afghan roundup

Nathanial Fick and John Nagl have an op-ed in the NYT about Afghanistan and it causes a bit of cognitive dissonance.

…there is increasing evidence that Afghanistan is moving in a more positive direction than many analysts think. It now seems more likely than not that the country can achieve the modest level of stability and self-reliance necessary to allow the United States to responsibly draw down its forces from 100,000 to 25,000 troops over the next four years.

Trust me…I really, REALLY would like some good news out of Afghanistan but making predictions about what the country will look like in four years based upon some isolated datapoints seems to be a bit of folly.

…even in Sangin, the Taliban are being driven from their sanctuaries as the coalition focuses on protecting the Afghan people in key population centers and hubs of economic activity, and along the roads that connect them.

May I remind you that in 2001 we drove the Taliban from…everywhere.  Tactical success shouldn’t be used as a predictor of strategic success.

A significant shift of high-tech intelligence resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, initiated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander, is also having benefits.

That makes sense and is good news.  Of course, there’s no data to back that up (are more arrests/captures a good indicator of success or are they just the 21st century equivalent of body counts?)

Joshua Foust, has a pretty thorough fisking of the whole article.

A former German lawmaker does a pretty brutal take-down of the Afghan mission.  I don’t agree with his argument of equivalency of the current mission there with the Soviet one but he’s got some interesting things to say.  His thesis is that the war is supported on four fundamental lies:

  1. The first lie says we’re there to fight international terrorism.
  2. The second lie is that we’re there to defend our civilization’s values. (in my opinion this is his weakest point)
  3. The third lie is that we prioritize civilian reconstruction over military activities.
  4. The fourth lie is that we’re in the Hindu Kush to prevent the return of the Taliban for good. (I’m not sure -at least here in the U.S. that argument has been made in the past couple of years.  I seem to recall high level personnel making the case that some Taliban will likely have a role in future Afghan governments for some time now.)

And now that I just said you shouldn’t use tactical events to judge strategic process, let me submit this very close in view of a marine unit in Helmand.  Be warned, this have some very intense footage, that very few Americans have seen, even 10 years into this war.  It’s not war porn though and I include it here for two reasons:

  • Any democracy which sends its people off to war owe it to them to know what they’re sending their soldiers into.  That means no prettying up, no censoring funerals and being able to witness the life drain out of a soldier.  If we can’t do those things we have no business sending people out to war.
  • The discussion about IEDs starting around the 2:30 mark and the difficulties the marines describe in their mission.  It does present an anecdotal counter-point to the Fick/Nagl article.
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