Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta channeled former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he appeared on ABC News' This Week. To excuse setbacks for the administration's brutal, costly and failing strategy in Afghanistan, he told Jake Tapper:
"It's harder, it's slower, than I think anyone anticipated."
That sounds a lot like what Rumsfeld told ABC News back in 2008 regarding Iraq:
"Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there was not an anticipation that the level of insurgency would be anything approximating what it is."
We know that neither of these statements are true. Plenty of people (myself included) publicly and loudly denounced administration strategies in both cases, warning that military force would not solve our problem and that neither would bring anything remotely approaching "victory." What Panetta and Rumsfeld actually mean is that no one they listened to anticipated the disasters that followed the implementation of administration policy.
Panetta didn't listen to Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who wrote:
...I would like to outline my reservation about a counterinsurgency strategy that relies on a large infusion of U.S. forces...I am concerned that we underestimate the risks of this expansion of our mission and that we have not fully studied every alternative. The proposed troop increase will bring vastly increased costs and an indefinite, large-scale U.S. military role in Afghanistan, generating the need for yet-more civilians. An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependency, at least in the near term, and it will deepen the military involvement in a mission that most agree cannot be won solely by military means. Further, it will run counter to our strategic purposes of Afghanizing and civilianizing government functions here.
Nor did he listen to veteran and former senior U.S. civilian official in Zabul Province, Matthew Hoh, who wrote:
I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not or the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.
Plenty of people anticipated the difficulty and the land-mines inherent in a counterinsurgency strategy supported by a large U.S. troop increase. Washington, D.C. just failed to listen. Again.