Afghanistan Review – A Show Without any Substance

A few thoughts on the Obama Administration’s Afghanistan Strategy Review that is currently under way and expected to be publicly released within the month:

As already noted in the press, the strategy review will conclude that progress is being made, but more tough months of fighting lay ahead.  Unfortunately, I doubt we will see any quantitative data or proof of such success.  Mainly, it will be anecdotal stories or general assertions, temporary in nature and easily disproved, similar to what we have heard for many years now.  We will probably also hear the very popular and oft-issued warning that “things might get worse before they get better”.  Of course the problem being:  it has never gotten better.

Will an understanding of the nature and motivation of much of the insurgency, such as the one below from Major General John Campbell, be incorporated into the review?

“General Campbell said his troops were making progress, but “a lot of the reason we get attacked is because we’re up here.” The goal of United States forces is to disrupt insurgent activity in the border area, but the general said he wanted to get to the point where he could withdraw troops from the remote mountains and reposition them in small towns to try to win over the local people.

“People don’t want us up there, but they don’t want the Taliban either,” he said. “They want to be left alone.”

He added that the region was vast and that his forces could not be everywhere. “We can’t be in every single valley; I mean there’s thousands of them out there, we just can’t do it,” he said.”

The Administration announced last month at the NATO conference in Lisbon that the current policy would not be changed and that US is committed to having troops in combat in Afghanistan until at least 2014.  So what is the purpose of this review?  The policy has already been decided.  It’s hard to imagine this review is anything other than a show.

All this reminds me very much of the early to mid-way point of the Iraq war; and that’s a terrible thought.

Matthew Hoh
Director of Afghanistan Study Group

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