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by Sergeant First Class Morgan Sheeran, Small Wars Journal
The United States and her allies are in trouble in Afghanistan. That's not hard to see. What seems to be taking up all the bandwidth these days is a conversation about how to go about reversing the backwards slide that Afghanistan is in. The Department of Defense notes in its January, 2009 report on Afghanistan, The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and has coalesced into a resilient and evolving insurgency." It goes on to state, Shortfalls limit the Allies' capacity to fulfill all aspects of the COIN strategy." Meanwhile, the military's senior leadership is spending its time discussing such things as the appropriateness of the doctrine developed to fight and succeed in such wars. Some are even excusing failure beforehand. Air Force Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. pointed out in the pages of Armed Forces Journal that the United States did not lose" the Cold War as a result of our failure in Vietnam, thereby implying that failure in Afghanistan would be less than catastrophic and therefore tolerable.
Assessing the acceptability of loss in the central campaign of the Global War on Terror is certainly a diversion from any assessment on how to succeed in a difficult enterprise. It is not the conversation that military leadership should be having at this or any point. While the Army managed to get COIN right just enough to avert a massive failure in Iraq, any self-congratulations are misplaced. The Army has still not wholeheartedly embraced the only doctrine that we possess which is specifically designed for use in counterinsurgency warfare.