“We are ready” –Gen Zahir Azimi, Afghan MoD, NYT.
Unfortunately, most of the country is not. Thomas Ruttig over at FP (by the way, who the hell is Michael Waltz and why did anyone print his anecdotal and poorly thought-out piece? Is Waltz seriously advocating an endless commitment?) seems to have hit the nail on the head; the surge (30,000+ troops) didn’t break the insurgency. Haqqani, Mullah Omar, Hekmatyar, and the ISI still run rampant. Possibly an even larger, much larger, commitment of troops would clear, hold, and build, over a period of years, but then again, maybe not. And among the Western democracies, it doesn’t matter, because voters don’t want to. And among the troops (to include senior officers) I’ve spoken to, most don’t want to stay, either; nobody wants to hang around to watch their military not win.
The shame is what Afghanistan, and normal, decent Afghans (those without Emirati cushions) will face when the last international troops leave. Scores will be settled, and a period of greater violence will ensue. Insurgent groups are already turning their guns on each other in anticipation, much as they did at the end of the Soviet occupation. Suicide bombings continue unabated on previously safe areas, and at previously unthinkable targets. The “transition” of security responsibilities is not going as smoothly as ISAF hoped, and probably will not in the future, either.
In a few decades, the history of what happened in Afghanistan will undoubtedly be rendered so simple that high-school kids will guffaw at the mistakes made in the ten years international forces were in Afghanistan, just as my generation did with Vietnam. But we (I) never fully understood how horrible it must have been at the time to withdraw, even if there was no reasonable alternative. I think I understand it now. In the meantime, I have to help my Afghan friends with all the visa applications they can pen.