|Courtesy of the US Army on flickr|
It has not been that much of a secret that if you look for a substantive critique of the allied effort in Afghanistan, you do not have to look much further than what the U.S. military publishes itself through its various organs. In fact, the ease with which U.S. officers and military leaders can sometimes voice their opinion stands out in stark contrast to the practices on this side of the pond or, in fact, to the commonly held assumption that the U.S. is one tight behemoth that does not reflect in any meaningful way on its own operations. In fact, the best insight into allied efforts has often been produced by the SSI and is often being published in the public domain by such quarterlies as the Parameters (It is here that in 1986 a young major named David Petraeus penned a stark challenge to the Powell-Weinberger doctrine as the ultimate lesson from the war in Vietnam). The Armed Forces Journal is not a DOD publication, but many of its authors have a background in the military and the journal has therefore gained a reputation for being very much right on the mark.
In a piece that has already gone viral, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis demonstrates why that reputation is well-deserved. In Truth, lies and Afghanistan, he paints a gloomy picture of Afghanistan today, noting the virtually total absence of progress in the Afghan theatre. What struck me most in the stories Lt. Col. Davis relates is that Afghan security forces are already bracing themselves for the day allied forces leave. Now, Davis repeats what many others have said already, basically that we are now in this war's tenth year and have little to show for it. And that is not quite accurate. ISAF has been restricted or rather restricted itself to Kabul for the first half of the mission. Only since 2006 has NATO begun to expand its mission to the entire country and only in 2009 did the counterinsurgency-campaign commence in earnest. And just as the campaign was making progress in the wake of the Afghan surge, the alliance already started eyeing for the exit. But a real counterinsurgency-campaign needs about eight to ten years to be effective and so far no allied government has made the sort of commitment necessary. I'll leave it here, but suffice it to say that the real problem of the Afghanistan mission is not its futility, but the lack of a real strategy and the willingness to commit to it.