Afghanistan: winning, losing or treading water?

There appears to be a far more realistic assessment of the situation in Afghanistan now that the Bush Administration has departed Washington.

NYT said:
Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban

WASHINGTON — President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.


“If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Mr. Obama said.

At the same time, he acknowledged that outreach may not yield the same success. “The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex,” he said. “You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge.”

BBC said:
Nato 'struggling in Afghan south'

Coalition forces in Afghanistan are not winning in large parts of the south, the commander of Nato and US forces there has said.

Gen David McKiernan told the BBC that coalition strategy had so far been clear, but under-resourced.


In an interview with the BBC, Gen McKiernan said there were areas in the north, east and west where "coalition efforts in support of the government of Afghanistan [are] winning".

"But there are other areas - large areas in the southern part of Afghanistan especially, but in parts of the east - where we are not winning," he said.

In these areas "more has to happen along multiple lines of operation in order for anybody by any metric to say that the Afghans are winning or the efforts of the coalition are winning," Gen McKiernan added.



Book Reviewer
Gen David McKiernan told the BBC that coalition strategy had so far been clear, but under-resourced.

'Clear but under-resourced'? I agree with under-resourced, but perhaps someone can enlighten me as regards the S word?
"Afghanistan: winning, losing or treading water?"

Bit of a rather open question there

If you take winning, as the government of Karzai is the only agency that has a monopoly on force then no If You take winning, as your side isn't dieing in large numbers than, yes.

Afghanistan needs a drastic change in strategy and it maybe that Obama is willing to make that change. It may be that by getting rid of Karzai he could do another Ngo Dinh Diem and escalate the situation or it maybe and I will be shocked if this is the case, he understands the geo-political situation.

Obama needs to re-enfranchise the Pashtun and that maybe for now abandoning the mission civilatrice but without stability there is way that the life for ordinary Afghans can really improve in the long term. However given recent experiences though I am beginning to wonder if the only beneficial change has been for the expats.

I know many find it disdainful that the Paks have sued in SWAT but if you look it at another way, the government has suzerainty on the area through agents who can use force to ensure some sort of stability. It may not be pretty but at least it is something.


Book Reviewer

Thanks - but while the article talks a lot about embedding troops with the population, I am still confused. Let's make this as simple as possible:

Strategy: WHAT you want to/aim to do
Tactics: HOW you do it.

WHAT is it that are we aiming to do in Afghan? What is the desired result?

Defeat the Taliban (whoever they may be)?
Build a functioning economy?
Build a functioning democracy?
Create a situation in which (2) and (3) above are feasible?
Win the support of the population for (1), (2), (3) and/or (4) above?
Keep Karzai and his boys in power?
All of the above?
Some of the above?
None of the above?

Feel free to englighten this poor ignoramus, cos I frankly don't get it.

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