Small Wars Journal

Sunday's WaPo Commentary

Building Our Best Weapon. By Mike Mullen.

We have learned, after seven years of war, that trust is the coin of the realm -- that building it takes time, losing it takes mere seconds, and maintaining it may be our most important and most difficult objective.

That's why images of prisoner maltreatment at Abu Ghraib still serve as recruiting tools for al-Qaeda. And it's why each civilian casualty for which we are even remotely responsible sets back our efforts to gain the confidence of the Afghan people months, if not years.

Going the Distance. The war in Afghanistan isn't doomed. We just need to rethink the insurgency. By Seth G. Jones.

Afghanistan has a reputation as a graveyard of empires, based as much on lore as on reality. This reputation has contributed to a growing pessimism that U.S. and NATO forces will fare no better there than did the Soviet and British armies, or even their predecessors reaching back to Alexander the Great. The gloom was only stoked by last week's brazen suicide attacks in Kabul on the eve of a visit by Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Not Even the Afghans Know How to Fix It. By Edward P. Joseph.

At the Jihad Museum in Herat, the ancient Afghan city not far from the Iranian border, the main attraction was just about ready: a 360-degree diorama showing mujaheddin being slaughtered by, and then slaughtering, the Soviet invaders of the 1980s.

I recently visited the exhibit during a seven-week mission to evaluate a U.S. program assisting local governments in Afghanistan. On our way out of the museum, we bumped into a prominent mujahed fighter and his entourage. When an American in our group told him that the United States would never forget the Afghan fighters' struggle against the Soviets, he smiled and nodded proudly. "And we also can never forget your fight against the Taliban now," the American added. With that, the mujahed's smile vanished -- and so did he, with all his people, after an awkward goodbye.

The war in Iraq isn't over. The main events may not even have happened yet. By Tom Ricks.

... I don't think the Iraq war is over, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect.

A smaller but long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq is probably the best we can hope for. The thought of having small numbers of U.S. troops dying for years to come in the country's deserts and palm groves isn't appealing, but it appears to be better than either being ejected or pulling out -- and letting the genocidal chips fall where they may.

Almost every American official I interviewed in Iraq over the past three years agreed. "This is not a campaign that can be won in one or two years," said Col. Peter Mansoor, who was Gen. David H. Petraeus's executive officer during much of the latter's tour in Iraq. "The United States has got to be —to underwrite this effort for many, many years to come. I can't put it in any brighter colors than that." ...