Letter From a Serviceman in Afghanistan

The below is an email I received last week from a friend of mine in the Army on his second combat deployment to Afghanistan. In addition to his two Afghan deployments, he has fought for our country in both Iraq wars.

Unfortunately, I cannot attribute his views by name, however they are representative of many of the conversations I have or the regular correspondence I receive from friends and former colleagues, both military and civilian, currently in or just returned from Afghanistan. This is just one illustration of the very real disconnect that exists between many of our service members and diplomats who are in daily contact with the reality of the conflict in Afghanistan and the generals, politicians and pundits who advocate the current US policy in Afghanistan, proclaim its progress and espouse the supposed worth of this war (see the Afghanistan Study Group website for the latest discussion on the most recent report of "progress").

The below is unedited and unabridged, with the exception of the removal of information that would identify the writer:


look brother, all kidding about reading the news aside, i can't believe how this is passing without challenge or question by anyone.

the Vice President of the United States went on national television less than three weeks ago to - again - emphatically explain that come July a meaningful number of US combat troops will be coming home.

and yet here we have the Secretary of Defense announcing the ADDITION of 1,400 more Marines to "consolidate recent gains" less than six months before "sizable numbers" of US combat troops will be coming out? but look, here's what gets precious little (if any) notice in the United States: it isn't just a good chunk of American combat troops that will be leaving Afghanistan this year. there are also published reports independently from the Foreign Minister or Defense Minister from Germany, Canada, Italy, the UK, Australia, and France suggesting or outright specifying that their troops will also start withdrawing sometime in 2011. this is a rhetorical question whose answer is painfully obvious, but: does anyone think that the Taliban insurgents, the citizens of Afghanistan, the government leaders in Kabul, and the military and political leaders of every country in the region don't see this for what it is: the beginning of the end of the NATO military presence, whose end is going to be 2014?

what rational person would still cling to the hope that we can win politically and/or militarily when the deck is so profoundly stacked against us? the enemy, who Phoenix-like rose from almost complete annihilation after early 2002 to the height of their power today - despite the 'surge' of 40,000 additional NATO combat troops - has every logical reason to have optimism for ultimate success, as they've not simply weathered the storm of the best we have to throw, but actually managed to increase their effectiveness. by every measurable metric, the TB has risen in power six consecutive years, irrespective of how many western troops we added, strategies adopted, or new commanding generals we hired; no detectable alteration in their ascent.

meanwhile, the Afghan government at virtually every level that matters has changed nothing of their character and are as corrupt today as they were in 2002 when they started; no detectable alteration. the people of Afghanistan see all this for what it is. it is for this reason that they have not, after a decade of our best efforts and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, come to our side. hasn't anyone ever wondered why, when the people of Afghanistan confirm in poll after poll that they dislike the TB by a staggering 94% or higher figure year after year, they have not come to our side and worked with us the way the Iraqi people did in 2007? It's because as much as they dislike the TB, they have an equal or higher dislike of their own government! Thus, they are trapped in the middle, trusting no one.

the government of Pakistan in particular, but the governments of all the countries of the region generally recognize that the "fourth quarter" has begun and in four short years the clock will read 'double-00', the US will be mainly gone, and everyone in the region will continue to live with what remains. what possible motivation do any of them have to work towards a solution that helps out mainly the United States in the short term but leaves them vulnerable in the medium and long term? again, 'double-00' in a mere four years and all of NATO is gone. and of no small significance, they recognize the ridiculous claims of 'consolidating gains' to be horse dung and to be given no serious consideration.

all of which returns us to the physical battlefields in RC-East, South, and Southwest where men continue to die in record numbers. as NATO countries finally start reducing their footprint in the local areas later this year, the casualty count will finally start falling, and many ISAF leaders will no doubt start citing that as evidence of military success. but how many men will die between now and December 2014, and of more significance, how many more will have their legs blown off, arms ripped out of their sockets, eyes punctured, or "simply" having their brains sloshed around in their skulls as a result of explosions?

and for what gain? we already know the end. it's already on the schedule and we're going to follow that schedule almost no matter what.

how many men, how very many men's lives are going to be shattered between now and then, and no one in the United States will benefit from this remarkable sacrifice; like blood being carelessly and pointlessly discarded onto and then disappearing without a trace into trackless desert sands...