Making a Sandwich in Afghanistan

Making a Sandwich in Afghanistan:

How to Assess a Strategic Withdrawal from a Protracted Irregular War

by Paul Rexton Kan

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The dinner offerings at the dining facility at ISAF headquarters were not the best when I took a break one night from working with CJIATF-Shafafiyat. The general's military aid, a lieutenant, sat down at the table with a few slices of bread, some meat and cheese. I said, "That actually looks better than what I got". He replied, "Sir, if it's one thing the Army taught me, it's how to make a sandwich." This is an appropriate metaphor for NATO and US efforts in Afghanistan and perhaps an important corollary to John Nagl's "eating soup with a knife." Simply put, it means doing the best with what you have in the face of worse options. When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, most of the focus has been on the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy and what it will mean for 2014 when International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) mission will fall to the Afghan Security Forces. To be sure, civilian decision makers will take into account the metrics used by the military as it undertook its assessment of success. But whether 2014 will be a "period" or a "comma" marking the international community's military involvement in the country will largely depend on strategic level considerations of politicians, and not purely the military metrics of an operational strategy like COIN.

Download The Full Article: Making a Sandwich in Afghanistan

Paul Rexton Kan is currently an Associate Professor of National Security Studies and the Henry L. Stimson Chair of Military Studies at the US Army War College. He is also the author of the book Drugs and Contemporary Warfare (Potomac Books 2009) and was recently the Visiting Senior Counternarcotics Advisor for CJIATF-Shafafiyat (Transparency) at ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. His forthcoming book is Cartels at War: Mexico's Drug Fueled Violence and the Threat to US National Security (Potomac Books).

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