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We Can Still Win the War: Things are Grim in Afghanistan, But Victory Remains in Sight - John Nagl, New York Daily News opinion.
Recent reports from Afghanistan paint a dark picture of the counterinsurgency efforts in the Taliban-infected south and east of the country. This spring's operation in Marja, initially proclaimed a military success, sputtered when the Afghan "government in a box" failed to show up. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, after a positive visit to Washington, has demonstrated erratic behavior, including forcing the resignation of two of his best ministers. And the critical offensive in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and the historical cradle of the Taliban, has been postponed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of our efforts there. Some are suggesting that the "Afghan surge" announced by President Obama in December at West Point has failed even before all of the planned 30,000 reinforcements have arrived in the country.
Those skeptics may have forgotten that counterinsurgency is always slow and grinding - "like eating soup with a knife", in the words of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), a man who knew something of this most challenging kind of war. Defeating an insurgency requires the patience to implement the classic "clear-hold-build-transition" counterinsurgency strategy. Efforts to clear the enemy from an area require large numbers of well-trained and usually foreign troops; hard as it is, clearing is the easy part. Success requires local troops to hold the area so that the insurgents cannot return to disrupt the process of building a better life for the population in the cleared area, which can then be transitioned to local control. Setbacks are likely at each stage of the process, but there are no shortcuts; defeating insurgents is hard, slow work.
Gen. David Petraeus, a man with some personal experience in counterinsurgency and the architect of our strategy in Afghanistan, testified during the darkest hours of our counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq that "hard is not hopeless." Hard is not hopeless in Afghanistan, either. Success there - defined as an Afghanistan that does not provide a haven for terror or destabilize the region and is able to secure itself with minimal outside assistance - remains a vital national interest of the United States...
More at The New York Daily News.