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The Pentagon Gives Itself an E for Effort on the Failing Afghanistan War

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Released on the eve of the December strategy review, the Pentagon's latest "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan (.pdf)" shows that the insurgents' momentum has not been broken, despite repeated claims by U.S. and NATO officials.

Here's how the report describes the insurgency, emphasis mine:

...Organizationally, the insurgency's capabilities and operational reach have been qualitatively and geographically expanding, as evidenced by a greater frequency and wider dispersion of insurgent-initiated attacks; however, that spread is being increasingly challenged by the ISAF surge forces conducting operations. Despite the increase in ANSF and ISAF capabilities to counter insurgent attacks, the insurgents' tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) continue to evolve in sophistication.

Despite the boilerplate language attached asserting that new troops are "challenging" the spread of the insurgency, note that the report discloses that the spread continues. This description is virtually identical to that provided in the last progress report from April (.pdf):

Organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding....Insurgents' tactics, techniques, and procedures for conducting complex attacks are increasing in sophistication and strategic effect. (p. 21)

... as well as a previous assessment of the insurgency from late 2009 (.ppt):

"Organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding."

In other words, the huge number of new troops sent to Afghanistan by President Obama over the course of this year has not stopped the spread of the insurgency.

The report's clever phrasing, that the troop increase is "challenging" the spread of the insurgency without stopping it, invites the reader to give the Pentagon a grade of "E" for "effort," like your kindergarten teacher used to do when your coloring projects didn't turn out quite right.

The truth is that the generals deserve an "F" for "failure" on this war:

  • The insurgency continues to grow and increase in sophistication.
  • War-related violence in Afghanistan is up 300 percent since 2007, and up an additional 70 percent since last year.
  • The number of civilian casualties is skyrocketing.
  • This year is already the deadliest year of the war for U.S. troops.

Given the failure of the escalation strategy to produce even marginally strategically significant success, it makes no sense whatsoever for President Obama to extend this failing war through 2014. Doing so will cost the American taxpayer, on the low end, close to half-a-trillion dollars. We need that half-trillion dollars at home to put people back to work, not wasted on a war that's not making us safer. If Congress and the president keep spending our dollars this way, no one should believe for a second that they're serious about getting our economy back on track.

When we're talking about spending half-a-trillion dollars, an "E" for "effort" isn't good enough. This farce has hurt enough people and destroyed enough prosperity. The president should start bringing troops home immediately and finish doing so before the end of next year. Then we can use the money we're wasting on this dumb war to create some jobs, for crying out loud.

If you are fed up with your government wasting hundreds of billions on a failing war, help us end it. Join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.