I wrote this post last week on the Afghanistan Study Group's blog and felt it was appropriate to re-post today, as the questions and concerns posed went unanswered by the Obama Administration's Strategic Review of Afghanistan:
A few thoughts on the Obama Administration's Afghanistan Strategy Review that is currently under way and expected to be publicly released within the month:
As already noted in the press, the strategy review will conclude that progress is being made, but more tough months of fighting lay ahead. Unfortunately, I doubt we will see any quantitative data or proof of such success. Mainly, it will be anecdotal stories or general assertions, temporary in nature and easily disproved, similar to what we have heard for many years now. We will probably also hear the very popular and oft-issued warning that "things might get worse before they get better". Of course the problem being: it has never gotten better.
Will an understanding of the nature and motivation of much of the insurgency, such as the one below from Major General John Campbell, be incorporated into the review?
"General Campbell said his troops were making progress, but "a lot of the reason we get attacked is because we're up here." The goal of United States forces is to disrupt insurgent activity in the border area, but the general said he wanted to get to the point where he could withdraw troops from the remote mountains and reposition them in small towns to try to win over the local people.
"People don't want us up there, but they don't want the Taliban either," he said. "They want to be left alone."
He added that the region was vast and that his forces could not be everywhere. "We can't be in every single valley; I mean there's thousands of them out there, we just can't do it," he said."
The Administration announced last month at the NATO conference in Lisbon that the current policy would not be changed and that US is committed to having troops in combat in Afghanistan until at least 2014. So what is the purpose of this review? The policy has already been decided. It's hard to imagine this review is anything other than a show.
All this reminds me very much of the early to mid-way point of the Iraq war; and that's a terrible thought."
What I did leave out last week was the predictable reaction of pro-war advocates and pundits who now, of course, assert that it will be another six months until we can accurately judge the war in Afghanistan. I guess the nine years of conflict we have been involved in, plus the conflict's previous twenty plus years of bloodshed and instability, are not enough to give us a basic understanding of the root causes and factors underlying this war. But hell, six months is only another 4,000 US troops killed or wounded and barely $60 billion*. It's someone else's kid anyway, our credit is still good to borrow the money and war makes great chest thumping theatrics for politicians and cable news pundits, so why even ever change this failing and counterproductive policy?
*The US is suffering approximately 50 dead and 600 wounded each month and is expending nearly $10 billion per month on operations in Afghanistan.