Earlier tonight on my way home I stopped at a Borders (or Barnes and Noble; I forget) and read through half of Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars. I was left with the distinct impression that the president does not favor the war in Afghanistan as it has been fought. Considering the efforts, lives, and monies that have gone into it, I don’t blame him, but I am upset that he committed 30,000 troops (plus their thousands of contractor and civilian counterparts) despite his misgivings. As covered in the Washington Post, Woodward seems to have gone out of his way to illustrate the similarities in military influence over Obama’s decision-making process and the mistakes LBJ made in regards to Vietnam.
For the record, Afghanistan is not Vietnam. Everyone should acknowledge that. The insurgency in Afghanistan is not a nationalist movement, does not have a majority behind it, and the U.S. has learned to stand by their man (no offence, Amb. Cabot) and gather international support. But momentum has been, and continues to be, slipping away from ISAF. A massive surge involving not extra brigades but extra divisions (the cop on every street-corner) may have stymied the lawlessness and growth of insurgency, but at this stage it does not seem the 150,000 ISAF troops are doing it. The democracies fielding the soldiers are increasingly unable to justify the commitment to their constituencies, and it seems that within five years the war will be for all intents and purposes over.
The question remains, then, as to whether Afghan security forces will be able to function effectively by mid-to-late-2011, the projected beginning of the American force reduction. I remain unconvinced, especially as ISAF and the Afghan government arm and legitimize tribal levies to make up the difference. Try as I might, I can’t see how this war will end well, for Afghanistan or ISAF. Woodward’s book seemed to say much the same, and that the confusion was shared by the U.S. government. Could somebody please tell us how this ends?