Pages: 1 2
America’s greatest serving general, David Petraeus, has his work cut out for him in Afghanistan. Not only must he contend with a resilient Taliban insurgency and a corrupt Afghan government, but he must also reckon with a fractious command structure and frustration amongst his troops. The war, America’s longest, is now in its ninth year. Petraeus is a respected commander, with proven experience with counterinsurgency in Iraq, where he oversaw the troop surge strategy that convinced Iraqis that America could win. But can he do the same in Afghanistan?
The American military, and those of its allies, have learned much from the successes in Iraq. The early, painful setbacks in Iraq forced the allies to learn on their feet. But Afghanistan is different. Its central government is too weak to establish effective control over terrain cleared of Taliban and drug lords by NATO troops. The Allies go in, win battles and leave. A few months later, after the failure of the government to establish a foothold, the Taliban and drug lords are back. Along the way, the NATO strategy became focused on avoiding civilian deaths, even at the expense of effectively waging war.
Petraeus is likely to address these failings. There are reports that the general has heard the pleas of the troops under his command and will seek to change the rules of engagement the NATO troops operate under, making it easier to do what they’re trained to do: locate and destroy the enemy. Even so, as Senator McCain has pointed out, Petraeus is being put in an untenable position: Even if he is able to implement his desired changes in strategy, if the administration clings stubbornly to its withdrawal date of summer of 2011, it won’t matter. The war will need much longer to be won, if indeed it can be won at all.
But perhaps the most worrisome issue facing Petraeus concerns reports that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency is deeply connected with the Taliban. This relationship, long rumored, was given yet more credence by a report issued this month by Matt Waldman, of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Governance. The report lays out in stark terms something that has been long reported — that the ISI, or at least large sections of it, are actively supporting the Taliban insurgency in its battle against American-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Pages: 1 2