At my day job with the American Security Project, I recorded a podcast with Adjunct Fellow Nick Lockwood, expert on stabilization operations, population engagement and strategic communications. He travels routinely to Afghanistan, and more recently to places like Libya. The topic was primarily about my current research on the economics of southwest Kyrgyzstan, and why that matters for more than just Kyrgyzstan:
The end of that podcast focused on the travails of Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, who was fired last week for his intemperate remarks. I think his firing was the only good thing to have come out of it, and I explained why in much more detail for The Atlantic:
The problem with defending Fuller’s remarks, however, is two-fold: they were not only an inaccurate description and analysis of the politics of Afghanistan, but they actively undermined the U.S. mission and strategy. Far from being a “truth-teller,” Gen. Allen made a serious error of judgment, both in how he understood Afghanistan and how he chose to express that understanding.
And even from a basic understanding of politics, Gen. Fuller’s remarks were counterproductive. Gen. Fuller’s remarks that Afghans are not grateful enough for the money the U.S. has spent on their army is deeply insulting. No matter the political system, having a foreign general berate an entire political class for their ingratitude is counterproductive and possibly even poisonous for future collaboration — the most guaranteed way to undermine the mission. Basic human empathy can elucidate this very simple fact. Politics is as much as not speaking unpleasant truths as it is speaking pleasant untruths. It is universal to all political systems.
The U.S. strategy is based on supporting and building up the Afghan government. Publicly insulting them undermines that strategy is reason enough to fire Gen. Fuller, regardless of the anything else.
Anyway, there’s a lot here to discuss, I think. Fire away!