Small Wars Journal

McMaster and Mattis Have Twelve Months to Succeed in Afghanistan

McMaster and Mattis Have Twelve Months to Succeed in Afghanistan by James Durso - Real Clear Defense

Recently we learned that Erik Prince, founder of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Steve Feinberg, financier, and owner of DynCorp International, a leading military logistics, and training contractor, approached the Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, with their plan to use contractors instead of American troops to stabilize Afghanistan. The meeting was arranged at the behest of President Trump’s advisors who want to ensure their boss is apprised of the full range of options in Afghanistan.

The Secretary decided to stick with an in-house solution, that is to say, more of the same, for a war we are, in his words, “not winning.” Secretary Mattis is no enemy of contractors, but hopefully, he reflected on what Messrs. Prince and Feinberg said before he briefed President Trump last week on the way ahead in Afghanistan.

Let’s review our progress in Afghanistan:

  • Provinces under central government control: according to data from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “the Afghan government controls or influences just 52 percent of the nation’s districts today [February 2017] compared to 72 percent in November 2015.”
  • Opium production increased 43% from 2015 to 2016 and has been on an upward trend since 2001.
  • U.S. casualties: 2385 dead and 20,290 wounded military; 1691 dead contractors.
  • Money spent: over $700 billion, though some analysts say the true cost is in the trillions. 

I previously said we should let the Afghans and the neighbors – Iran, Pakistan, and China – try to sort it out, and minimize our work with Afghanistan to counternarcotics and intelligence sharing while we work with the Central Asian states to secure their borders. During the campaign, candidate Trump described the war in Afghanistan as “a complete waste” and has focused his efforts since inauguration on everything else, leaving the policy review to the national security advisor, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, which brings us to the problem…

Read on.