Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills has some excellent news:
Coalition forces in Afghanistan have beaten the insurgency in an important stronghold of Taliban fighters, though pockets of resistance remain, a U.S. commander said Monday in an interview with USA TODAY.
“This is really the heart of the insurgency,” Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. “I believe they have been beaten.”
The province is among the first targets of a surge of 30,000 U.S. servicemembers ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama in December 2009. The first Marines associated with the surge began arriving in the province shortly afterward.
At the time, the Taliban had control over Marjah, a center of the country’s opium trafficking industry that the insurgents had used to pay for its fighters and supplies, according to the Pentagon. The Marines pushed the Taliban out of Marjah soon after and for months after moved into outlying areas, some of which saw heavy fighting.
The progress in Helmand province “shows you the momentum is shifting,” said James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Loosening the Taliban’s grip on the drug trade “could have a cascading effect in the years ahead,” he said.
Ignore the fact that just about everything he’s saying is wrong (starting with calling Helmand “the heart of the insurgency,” which not even General McChrystal was willing to say, as he considered Helmand only important as it related to Kandahar). By this logic—momentum is decisively shifting to favor us—we should therefore be contemplating a negotiated settlement with the defeated Taliban and a substantial withdrawal of our victorious Surge troops in July of this year, as promised at the start of the surge in 2009.
Of course, nothing of the sort will actually happen. Victory is justification for more presence, not less (just as defeat is justification for more presence, not less). Increased violence means we’re winning, so therefore we must stay to ensure the win (even though decreased violence would mean we’re winning, so therefore we must stay to ensure violence continues to decrease). We cannot negotiate with pure evil Talibal Qaeda, no matter their status, because some guys just need a good killin’ to fix the problem. And so on.
I do like the added bit at the end, that we won’t know for years if all of this progress and momentum will actually matter. Naturally, we must keep 140,000 troops in the country to make sure we can measure it properly; actually behaving as if this is real victory and not invented victory meant to satiate an apathetic public that will never think twice about is totally off the table. So, we’ll stay there forever, no matter what, because how could you possibly want defeat?