Officially, Mr. Obama’s Afghan buildup shows signs of success, demonstrating both American military capabilities and the revival of a campaign that had been neglected for years. But in the rank and file, there has been little triumphalism as the administration’s plan has crested.
But the colonel, a commander who asked that his name be withheld to protect him from retaliation, referred to “the great disconnect,” the gulf between the intense efforts of American small units at the tactical level and larger strategic trends.
The Taliban and the groups it collaborates with remain deeply rooted; the Afghan military and police remain lackluster and given to widespread drug use; the country’s borders remain porous; Kabul Bank, which processes government salaries, is wormy with fraud, and President Hamid Karzai’s government, by almost all accounts, remains weak, corrupt and erratically led.
And the Pakistani frontier remains a Taliban safe haven.
Even a successful military campaign, soldiers and Marines consistently say, is unlikely to untangle this knot of dysfunction, much less within the deadlines discussed in Washington. The Obama administration hopes to begin withdrawing forces within months and to complete a drawdown by 2014 (a plan reiterated by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Afghanistan this week).
From an essential, extensive, and devastating analysis of the U.S. “strategy” in Afghanistan, by CJ Chivers.