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Afghanistan Journal at Politics Daily.
The Taliban's response to the Afghan war strategy proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal could be shocking and grim, with insurgents redoubling suicide attacks and ambushes against American troops, aircraft and road convoys, triumphantly setting up "liberated zones,'' and executing Afghan police and collaborators in areas abandoned by US and allied forces. The first months of the new strategy, rather than feeling like a winning new campaign, could feel a lot like losing.
In the short term, at least, that's the dismaying expectation of a wide range of counterinsurgency and Afghanistan experts if President Obama authorizes McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, to implement a wide-ranging counterinsurgency campaign with as many as 40,000 additional US troops. Pentagon and White House officials say that decision will be made within weeks...
Out on Afghanistan's dusty battlefields, the war is so complicated that some of America's most hardened, experienced counterinsurgency warriors are stymied and frustrated. Frustrated that they don't have the right tools or enough manpower or, most of all, enough time. Frustrated at the difficulty of grappling with IEDs, corrupt Afghan officials and contractors, and a sullen and skeptical population. Frustrated that their troops don't speak the local language or understand the local culture. Frustrated at trying to manage battles without harming civilians, and struggling to coax signs of life from a flat-lined economy and an inept and sometimes venal government.
One brigade commander, Col. Michael Howard, is on his fourth tour in Afghanistan and understands it like few others. Still, there are pieces of this war that stop him cold. One of them is government corruption. "It's a cancer without a cure in Afghanistan, and if we don't come up with a cure, it will cause us to fail,'' Howard told me last month, biting off his words angrily.
A battalion commander in eastern Afghanistan, also fed up with the war's complexity, confessed: "Sometimes you just want a good, old-fashioned firefight to settle this whole damn thing.'' ...
The bombs fell about three hours before dawn. Two seven-foot-long steel torpedo shapes sliced silently through the darkness, each packed with 192 pounds of Tritonal high explosive, released and guided by American F-15E strike fighters high over Kunduz province, Afghanistan.
Hours later the news broke, briefly interrupting reports of the latest bickering over health care reform, Michael Jackson's memorial service and unrest in China. Two gasoline tanker trucks, hijacked by the Taliban, had exploded in the attack, killing dozens of insurgents and perhaps civilians. The incident in early September ignited a brief flare-up of questions about air strike policy and civilian casualties, before attention turned back to point scoring on health care and speculating when Gen. Stanley McChrystal's Afghan war assessment would be unveiled. Maybe there's no other way to think about the Afghanistan war except in the most abstract terms. Air strikes or "boots on the ground"? Nation-building, or population-centric security? Counter-insurgency strategy, or counter-terrorism strategy? ...
Much more at David Wood's Afghanistan Journal.