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August 25, 2009

Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch - The Future Version
Posted by Michael Cohen

Barack Obama on March 27th, 2009:

As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future.

The newly released ISAF guidance for counterinsurgency in Afghanistan:

Essentially, we and the insurgents are presenting an argument for the future to the people of Afghanistan: they will decide which argument in most attractive, most convincing, and has the greatest chance of success.

 . . . We need to understand the people and see things through their eyes. It is their fears, frustrations and expectations that we must address.

Sigh. But this isn't even my favorite part of this guide:

Earn the support of the people and the war is won, regardless of how many militants are killed or captured. We must undermine the insurgent argument while offering a more compelling alternative. Our argument must communicate - through word and deed - that we and GIRoA have the capability and commitment to protect and support the people. Together, we need to provide a convincing and sustainable sense of justice and well-being to a weary and skeptical populace. We must turn perceptions from fear and uncertainty to trust and confidence.

And I would like a pony for every man, woman and child in Afghanistan.

Surely it's important to communicate that ISAF and GIRoA have the capability to protect and support them. But what if we don't actually posses that capability . . . or commitment for that matter.

Honestly, I urge you to read this guide and it's wonderful pie in the sky predictions about what a counter-insurgency can accomplish in Afghanistan. And then ask yourself: how are we going to achieve these goals if we a) don't have enough American troops; b) lack the political will to remain in Afghanistan at current troops levels for 5-10 years. (I mean does anyone think we're going to make a dent in Afghanistan's problem in 12-18 months); c) have little support from the Afghan government, the Afghan military and the Afghan police.

How exactly are we going to "provide a convincing and sustainable sense of justice and well-being" to the people of Afghanistan without these resources? Not to mention the fact, it's very hard to see why this would be in our national interest. Hell, how about turning perceptions of fear and uncertainty to trust and confidence here in America! It might actually help pass health care.

Yesterday, I spoke about the growing gulf between our intentions and capabilities in Afghanistan. You want prima facie evidence - read this guide and then read this article from the Sunday New York Times about how the Marines in Helmand province don't have the resources to carry out their mission.

And then maybe have a stiff drink.


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