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July 24, 2009

Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch - Signs of Progress
Posted by Michael Cohen

Today in the AMCW, some good news, well sort of. At least one prominent Democrat is recognizing the growing problems with the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan:

Feingold said he is increasingly disturbed by the war in Afghanistan, where troop levels are escalating by the month, US casualties are mounting and the insurgency is expanding. "It appears that no one even asked the president about [Afghanistan] at his [July 22] press conference after apparently thirty or thirty-one Americans were killed in Afghanistan last month. How is that possible?" Feingold asks. "People have to wake up to what's going on in Afghanistan, and my vote is a request that people wake up to what's happening, which is we are getting deeper and deeper into this situation in a way that I don't think necessarily makes sense at all and may actually be counterproductive."

This administration is almost whistling past the graveyard on this issue." Feingold added, "How is it that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our special envoy to this region both agree that this (possibly destabilizing Pakistan by pushing Afghan fighters across the border) could be a problem and that it is not talked about as a serious mistake if we're going to keep increasing troops and increase that effect? This is, in my view, the central flaw in what is otherwise a policy that is better than the Bush administration's. This is the central flaw in the thinking of the administration on this issue, and it needs to be pursued.

Read the whole interview here. Feingold is asking exactly the sort of questions that need to be asked.

Next over at the Atlantic Council blog, Donald Snow makes the argument that I have been trying to make over the past few days - doing population counter insurgency in Afghanistan is akin to sticking a square peg in a round hole:

With these limitations in mind, is Afghanistan ripe for COIN success? I think the manual (FM 3-24) argues implicitly that it is not, for three reasons. First, Afghanistan is too big for this kind of operation. The manual clearly states that effective COIN requires one counterinsurgent for every 1,000 members of the population being protected. In Afghanistan, that means a COIN force of 660,000, a number so wildly in excess to what will ever be available to be disqualifying in and of itself. Second, the doctrine argues the heart of success is the political conversion of the population, but it fails to discuss who is going to do the converting. If it leaves this to U.S. counterinsurgents, the battle is lost. As the manual itself argues, an additional criterion for success is a good government the population can be loyal to. It is not at all clear Afghanistan has or is in any danger of acquiring such a government. Finally, the doctrine entreats that COIN is slow work and that its success will require considerable perseverance. A decade’s commitment or more is often suggested for Afghanistan: is there any danger the American public will support an Afghanistan war still going on in 2018 or 2019? I doubt it.

Finally, I'm pleased to see that my occasional interlocutor, Andrew Exum, has returned safely from Afghanistan. While I note a more somber tone in his recent postings I expect that we will be jousting again soon over COIN, Afghanistan and which Civil War general we admire most. It's good to have him back.


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COIN success?
Who says that military success is a goal?
There are millions of dollars being made by military contractors with sweetheart contracts to support the Afghanistan fiasco, so that's success enough for the Pentagon and its acolytes.
As in so many other countries, let the military occupation go on, and on.
The danger of the American public not supporting an Afghanistan war still going on in 2018 or 2019?
Not a factor. The American people don't care, and anyhow they have absolutely no say in the matter.

Why waste life in Afghanistan? It have nothing but desert
US should focus on Iraq war

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