Today, Operation Enduring Freedom Turns Nine

by Joshua Foust on 10/7/2010 · 11 comments

So, we celebrate by writing every news story ever written about the war.

KABUL – Today the war in Afghanistan passed a grim milestone: it turned nine. At a time when more soldiers have been killed there than ever before, America’s war in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture, a make-or-break time for President Obama’s strategy to reverse Taliban momentum.

Almost as if to celebrate the occasion, three troops and six civilians died in an IED explosion in Helmand, the heartland of Afghanistan’s restive south where NATO forces are engaged in a deadly fight with the Taliban.

This latest explosion raises troubling questions about the flagging counterinsurgency strategy employed by U.S. forces. “This is yet more evidence the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable,” Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned in protest of the war and now directs the Afghanistan Study Group, said. “We cannot win a civil war we’re not a part of.”

John Nagl, President of the Center for a New American Security, has faith in the strategy employed by U.S. troops. “We finally have a properly resourced counterinsurgency strategy,” he recently told a group of reporters. “We should support the efforts of General Petraeus to pacify the country and protect the population.”

Meanwhile, the opium economy continues to undermine efforts to settle the region. Helmand province by itself provides half the world’s heroin, and its sale funds the Taliban insurgency. In nearby Kandahar, the heartland and spiritual home of the Taliban, watchdog groups allege that Afghan government officials are involved in the trade as well.

Many Afghans express frustration with the issue of corruption. At a recent town hall meeting convened by U.S. troops, Abdullah, who, like many Afghans, has only one name, asked why they don’t remove corrupt officials. “They steal from us,” he said, “yet you let them stay.” Lt. Col. Mike Everyman, 44, of Sarasota Springs, FL, responded with a simple plea to support their efforts to “clean up” the local government.

In Kabul, embattled Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a statement from his estate. “These dead civilians are innocent victims of a reckless U.S. military,” he said. “We must stop the worst of this fighting and begin outreach to the Taliban.”

Members of Afghanistan’s parliament disagree. Berhanuddin Rabbani, the former leader of the Northern Alliance, rejected Karzai’s appeal to reconciliation. At his fortified residence in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, he said, “We cannot negotiate with the criminals. Any attempt to do so might provoke strong opposition from the people.”

At issue are efforts to reach out to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who once received funding from the CIA during the 1980s war against the Soviets. Hekmatyar, whose insurgent group, Hizb-i Islami Gulbuddin, is linked to al Qaeda, has been open about his desire to reconcile with the government, though there remain serious doubts about his ability to stick to an agreement. Analysts raise similar doubts about outreach efforts to Mullah Omar, the one-eyed leader of the Taliban.

“We don’t know if these negotiations will work,” Seth Jones, an analyst with RAND, said. “These problems plague all invaders of Afghanistan.”

He continued, “It’s why we call it the graveyard of empires,” echoing the title of his book analyzing the increasingly unpopular war.

Mullah Omar is rumored to live in Quetta, a major center of Taliban operations.

“The Taliban and al Qaeda are on the run,” CIA Director Leon Panetta told reporters. “We have severely degraded their capability to execute terrorist attacks through an aggressive drone campaign in Pakistan.”

“We’ve definitely reversed their momentum,” General David Petraeus, the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, added. “With enough time, we can repeat in Afghanistan the same success we saw in Iraq during the Surge,” he said, referring to the 2007 increase in troop numbers widely credited with defeating the Iraqi insurgency.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near the Ministry of Finance, killing 54. The explosion coincided with Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s announcement that he was cutting subsidies to the “Sons of Iraq” militias, which the U.S. funded and armed to defeat the Sunni insurgents.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Um, the headline and the content of this post make no sense whatsoever. Either explain that it really is the 10th anniversary, despite the fact that you state that it is the 9th, or change the post. I can’t tell if I am missing something or if this is sloppy editing.

Joshua Foust October 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

My bad. It turned nine, which makes this its tenth year.

Boris Sizemore October 8, 2010 at 12:10 am

Joshua…it is 9 wars one year at a time. So we should mark each year which is really a new for us every year. We have new people, new commanders, “new strategies” new everything. And each year now is the time the insurgents who are fighting one integrated long term war are defeated. Amazing contrast of philosophies.

Happy Birthday War Effort!! Another year to “get Afghans and Afghanistan” May you turn it around this time.

Capt. Monkey October 8, 2010 at 3:58 am

Too funny. Sadly, too true, as well.

Bernard October 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm

What is funny is the people who lost their lives here? I am sorry that you have made to interpretation.

Toryalay Shirzay October 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

The reason this war has dragged on for a decade without real tangible progress is because the US/NATO has lacked fundamental and correct understanding of how to tackle the problems of Afghanistan.The US/NATO are worried about their image ,tied up by their domestic laws and politics,lack a unified operational tactics throughout the country,appear as sissies to the Taliban and their crafty Paki handlers, underestimate the very serious consequences of blatant corruption by Afghans and so on and on.Is this any way to run a war??!!

Steve Maghribi October 9, 2010 at 3:33 am

One of the interesting things in the future will be the Ghost Wars II, someone will write a book about what happened?

How did Hubris Plus Plus and Mission Accomplished turn into a disaster?

How did Eikenberry’s Heroes become the Counter Insurgency equivalent of Hogan’s Heroes?

This is the greatest insurgent turn around against an advanced force in history. Or was that in Iraq? Not sure.

When did the weak losing “pray and spray” Islamic warriors become a force that McChrystal and Petraeus and Gen. “Silent since Promoted to Centcom Commander-for a good reason” Mattis, the Heroes of Balad and Fallujah, could just not handle without begging on their military knees to a newly elected President for a surge and more forces?

Just what happened here to turn “Mission Accomplished” into just another “victory with honor?”

Which General dropped the ball completely and when? Could it be “Cointerinsurgency Expert at the CNAS,” General “Batman Barno” and his Boy Wonder Exum-Advisor to General McChrystal?

Not General Eikenberry and his five year run at infamy as Commander and now the disgraced Ambassador with no relations at all with Afghans? (As McChrystal said the whole time “covering his flanks for the history books”)

Or even the whole gang at CNAS, “We have got this under control, we understand this war-does not matter we have never been there before and could not spell the damn name a few years ago…”

Eating Soup with Fork just has not worked, who will the history show failed the Nation and its soldiers in such an incredible way?

There will be a list, but a very small one. These COIN experts are a very small group and they have been shown as failures.

I will laugh and then cry the next time they dare to pontificate on their failed models and concepts. They did not work when it counted and many soldiers have suffered for this.

The soldiers will not laugh and will have every right to run these “friggin experts” out of town after being tarred and feathered. Sorry it is just too true. Time to blame the right people for this disaster now.

I am sure out there are quite a few soldiers asking “How the hell did these bozos ever get a say at all?”

I wonder the same thing, and want to read the book and see the Congressional Hearings. I just hope for the soldiers sake we finally have some prosecutions for incompetence starting right at the top and working there way around the Belt Way.

This cannot happen again, at least not, until it happens again.

Sure victory to negotiated defeat is quite a name of shame that these coin experts will wear for the next generation. Justice I pray is well done this time.

The Soldiers /Marines/Sailors/Airmen who devoted a decade to following the crazy concepts that these unbelieveable incompetent experts put out deserve an accounting and now.

Boris Sizemore October 9, 2010 at 3:47 am

Steve, Good Post…

Don’t forget-Fred “Go fight em till you Drop-I will be right behind you-” Kagan and Max “Whatever Petraeus Says, I say too-If he says Jump I say how high oh General?” Boot.

They should be on the list way up towards the top. Heck their websites and blogs need to tarred and feathered too.

That was a good one “Silent since being Promoted-for a good reason” Mattis. He has turned into a total dud, after all that idol worship as the “hero of Fallujah.”

I agree our Soldiers deserve an accounting…now. Before the negotiated surrender begins.

Boris Sizemore October 9, 2010 at 4:03 am

John Nagl, President of the Center for a New American Security, has faith in the strategy employed by U.S. troops. “We finally have a properly resourced counterinsurgency strategy,” he recently told a group of reporters. “We should support the efforts of General Petraeus to pacify the country and protect the population.”

Nagl in the Imperial Japanese Army would one step away from Seppuku, but here in the US, he is planning a cruise to the Bahamas aboard the SS COIN-Guest lecturing that “in reality the Titanic was a submarine, they just did not understand it at the time.”

Abu Muqama-translated into post COIN dialect is

“Ah But, I just didn’t know anything? Uh?

Exum is getting real humble the last few months…what a change.

I mean they got the free trips to the War Zones- they must be forced to testify later to what they advised and who else messed up besides them.

Caleb Kavon October 9, 2010 at 4:39 am

Somehow I do not think any us including Josh Foust will be getting any Christmas/Holiday cards from these experts.

But, will I also not be invited to their COIN Christmas and Summer BarbeQue parties?

Those will be some depressing affairs in the future. Can I get a transcript? Please.

hannah October 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Silly request… did you change up something on the RSS feed so we no longer can see the post without clicking through? Any chance it could be changed back?

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