Quote of the Week

by Joshua Foust on 3/13/2011 · 1 comment

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.

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– 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 Registan.net. 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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{ 1 comment }

Don Bacon March 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

They would have called it “Afghanistanization” except it’s hard to pronounce and it brings back painful memories of “Vietnamization” to those of us old enough to remember. But still it has most of the ingredients that Vietnam had including a porous border, a weak & corrupt government, and an ineffective army.

On the latter, why don’t our guys they fight like the opposition does? was the constant question. The answer’s obvious: Because those guys are fighting for their country and our guys are fighting for us. And there are other factors.

Vietnam planted in the minds of many in the military doubts about the ability of U.S. forces to conduct successful large-scale counterinsurgencies. These misgivings do not in all cases spring from doubts about the capabilities of American troops and units per se. . . .

Rather, the doubts that are part of the Vietnam legacy spring from a number of interrelated factors: the previously noted worries about a lack of popular support for what the public might perceive as ambiguous conflicts; suspicions about the willingness of civilian policy-makers — not just those in the executive branch — to stay the course; and lurking fears that the respective services have yet to come to grips with the difficult tasks of developing the doctrine, equipment, and forces suitable for nasty “little” wars. . . .

For the military, in short, the debate over how and when to commit American troops abroad has become a debate over how to avoid, at all costs, another Vietnam.
–from “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era,” David Petraeus’s PhD thesis, 1987


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