The Mendacity of Hope: Why We Need to Leave Afghanistan

Will Keola Thomas – Afghanistan Study Group

From “Col. YYY,” described by former Air Force officer and Dept. of Defense military analyst Chuck Spinney as, “an active duty colonel who travels all over Afghanistan…This colonel, unlike many of his peers, actually goes on foot patrols with troops to see things for himself.” The anonymous colonel’s letter is a must read:

“The mendacity is getting so egregious that I am fast losing the ability to remain quiet; these yarns of ‘significant progress’ are being covered up by the blood and limbs of hundreds – HUNDREDS – of American uniformed service members each and every month, and you know the rest of this summer is going to see the peak of that bloodshed.

It’s sheer madness…”

Simon Klingert, a German freelance journalist in Afghanistan, responds to Col. YYY’s letter via twitter:

“I can confirm this. 2 months in Kandahar, Helmand, almost no one I talked to below the rank of LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) thinks we’re winning”

“#Afghanistan spin Rule 1: ‘Progress’ is ALWAYS to be referred to as ‘fragile and reversible’. Rule applies to ISAF, policymakers and media.

“#Afghanistan spin Rule 2: Refer to anticipated and/or imaginative progress as being ‘around the corner’. The corner is always 6 months ahead

“#Afghanistan spin Rule 3: To prove doubters wrong, tell about planned clearing operation that will deliver ‘decisive blow’ to enemy.”

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates plays according to the aforementioned rules. In a speech to coalition officers on his farewell tour of Afghanistan he almost managed to squeeze them all into a single sentence:

“I leave Afghanistan today with the belief that if we keep this momentum up, we will deliver a decisive blow to the enemy and turn the corner on this conflict.”

Lots of momentum, decisive blows, and corner-turning. But neither Secretary Gates, nor General Petraeus, would tell ABC’s Diane Sawyer that the U.S. is winning in Afghanistan:

“We’re really loathed to use this very loaded term of winning or losing.”

And CIA Director Leon Panetta hasn’t been confirmed as the next Secretary of Defense, but on Thursday he showed the Senate’s Armed Service Committee that he’s as well-versed in the rules as Gates:

“Important gains have been made over the past 18 months, establishing security and Afghan government authority in former Taliban strongholds such as Helmand and Kandahar, as well as building the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces. Although the gains are fragile and reversible, momentum has shifted to the Afghan government, and they are on track to begin the transition process by assuming lead security responsibilities in several areas of the country this summer.”

Panetta felt confident in declaring all those successes, but he wasn’t about to go out on a limb and say when, and in what numbers, our troops will be able to leave Afghanistan. That will be determined by “conditions on the ground.”

And, of course, hope:

“…I think if we stick with it, if we continue to provide help and assistance to them then I think there is going to be a point where Afghanistan can control its own future. We have to operate on that hope.”

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