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How to Win in Afghanistan, One Village at a Time - Doug Stanton, Washington Post opinion.
In mid-October and early November 2001, about three dozen Army Special Forces soldiers landed in northern Afghanistan and, with the help of a handful of CIA officers, quickly routed a Taliban army whose estimated size ranged from 25,000 to 50,000 fighters. Allied with Afghan fighters, this incredibly small number of first-in soldiers achieved in about eight weeks what the Pentagon had thought would take two years. For the first time in US history, Army Special Forces were deployed as the lead element in a war. And then, just as quickly, the Americans went home, pulled away to fight in Iraq in 2003. The Taliban soldiers filled the emerging power vacuum, and you pretty much know the rest of the story: Gen. Stanley McChrystal's dire August report on deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan, and President Obama's speech Tuesday announcing an influx of 30,000 additional American troops - needed, the president said, because "the Taliban has gained momentum."
Obama's stated purposes - to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al-Qaeda, and to train an Afghan army and police force capable of providing for the nation's security - are sensible and even noble. Accomplishing them will go a ways toward creating a more stable country. But his new strategy is not enough, and it may prove a mistaken effort to replicate an Iraq-like approach in a situation that is vastly different. In Afghanistan, we are not facing a broad insurgency with popular grass-roots support. Estimates of Taliban strength run anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 fighters, and only a small portion of the Afghan population supports the Taliban, perhaps 5 percent to 10 percent (polls are sketchy). Yet it is unclear whether Obama's plan is anything more than Iraq-lite, a counterinsurgency approach focused on building up local forces...
More at The Washington Post.