The Greatest Afghan War
By Michael Yon
October 1, 2009
The Greatest Afghanistan War has deteriorated so noticeably that one can now feel the enemy’s growing pulse. Each month it beats steadier, stronger, and in 2010 it will finally be born.
On Sept. 11 in Kandahar, a South African civilian working without security was visibly upset – not at the Taliban but at the police. The 16-year police veteran recounted seeing Afghan police speeding through crowded streets and hitting a bicycle. The rider gymnastically avoided impact while the bicycle was tossed down the road.
The South African, with whom I spent a week in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, said the police never slowed down. “That’s part of the reason the Taliban are gaining ground,” he said. “The police are out there recruiting Taliban.”
I have searched for answers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Along with the more strategic questions (for example, should war be pursued?) are those closer to the shop floor: Are we gaining or losing popular support? Is the enemy gaining or losing strength? Is the coalition gaining or losing strength?
The first answer is a common denominator for the rest.
We are losing popular support. Confidence in the Afghan and coalition governments is plummeting. Loss of human terrain is evident. Conditions are building for an avalanche. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the military commander in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are aware of the rumbling, and so today we are bound by rules of engagement that appear insensible.