War Update

Brief update on the war.  First, Afghanistan.

I would encourage all to read Yon’s latest dispatches (entitled “Death in the Corn”) from Afghanistan where he’s been embeded with our British allies in a very dangerous zone.  In his latest dispatch, Michael, again, relays words of warning on the war many seem to have forgotten or ignore.  Some snippets:

Of course we need more troops in Afghanistan.  But along with an increase in troops, we need a coherent strategy, one that considers the unique circumstances in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and the larger region.  We can win every engagement and still lose the war.  That’s why we see continued tactical successes against the Taliban, and high morale among troops like 2 Para who are fighting them every day, while the overall situation grows worse.  The soldiers are doing their job.

General Petraeus has ordered a Joint Strategic Assessment Team (JSAT) to evaluate Centcom’s area of responsibility.  He did this upon assuming command in Iraq, and that JSAT significantly contributed to the new strategy that proved successful beyond our wildest dreams.   Heading the Centcom effort will be Colonel H.R. McMaster, a brilliant officer whose command of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar in 2005 was seen as a model for counterinsurgency in Iraq.  The JSAT will be an opportunity for General Petraeus to develop a new strategy for AfPak, while not ignoring our responsibilities in Iraq, and elsewhere.

One of General Petraeus’ first challenges in AfPak will be organizational, creating at least unity of action, if not unity of command (which at this point is beyond his power), in order to better coordinate the strategic efforts of the different forces engaged in Afghanistan.  More than forty nations are here to “fight” the Taliban in Afghanistan.  While Centcom only controls the American contingent, General Petraeus’ political and diplomatic skills will be needed in order to keep the alliance together and make it more effective.  His experience in mentoring the Iraqi Security Forces also should prove valuable in fielding a stronger Afghan counterpart.

My first month back in Afghanistan leaves mixed impressions.  Clearly we are losing and the clock is ticking.  But then, we nearly lost Iraq in 2006, yet that war was turned around at the very brink of disaster.  Losing doesn’t mean lost.  It means try harder and try smarter.  Keep slugging and keep thinking.

Yon has been consistently warning us about the AfPak theater for several months now.   In each instance (including the above) he notes that while he believes we are losing, we have not lost and morale remains high.  The same sentiment has been reflected by military officials on the ground.  We can will, if we so choose.

Fortunately, changes are being made.  Petraeus will address some critical command unity issues and troop levels are being increased.   Additionally, Pakistan is being pressured to act against rather than appease Taliban in tribal areas and is also being pressed to reform its problematic ISI.  Much of this was also recommended recently by Admiral Mullen (although these actions appear to have begun previous to his update to the House Armed Services Committee).

Nonetheless, it is worth contacting the House and Senate and asking your respective Representative and Senator to be sure the necessary support (preferabbly without pork attached to it) is supplied to Afghanistan operations.

Second, Iraq:

Another benchmark has been reached.  This, is also very significant: Iraqis pass provincial-election law.  I’ve linked it to an HA post as it provides more detail than the source article (available at the post).

From the New York Times in “Back in Iraq, Jarred by the Calm“, Dexter Filkins is astounded by what he finds.  The place is unrecognizable from when he left it in 2006.  The article lists example and after example of the juxtaposition Mr. Filkins witnesses.  Here’s one, but please read the article in its entirety:

Abu Nawas Park — I didn’t recognize that, either. By the time I had left the country in August 2006, the two-mile stretch of riverside park was a grim, spooky, deserted place, a symbol for the dying city that Baghdad had become.

These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene — impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.

Finally, one last remark.  Please be sure to thank a serviceman/woman for their service when you see them.  Also, with the holidays coming sooner than you think, also please seriously consider donating to one of the various charities (see “Military Support Links” on the right) dedicated to assisting the military and their families.  Please, also consider donating to Michael Yon who relies on reader support for his excellent dispatches.  While he won’t accept it, the more I read his dispatches, the more I feel he is the modern day Ernie Pyle.

4 thoughts on “War Update

  1. Meanwhile, in reality-based news:

    ABC News reports that the Bush administration is keeping a new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan under wraps until after Election Day. [Direct link to Article]

    Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the Rand Corporation think tank, called the situation in Afghanistan “dire.”

    “We are now at a tipping point, with about half of the country now penetrated by a range of Sunni militant groups including the Taliban and al Qaeda,” Jones said.

    The Associated Press carried a recent report from Mosul, where the U.S. Army 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is battling Sunni Arab insurgents. [Direct link to article]

    “Since the start of Ramadan, it’s been crazy. We’ve been mortared; we’ve had fire come at the guard towers; we’ve had IEDs,” said Spc. Erich Hellwig.

    … “Honestly, I don’t know who we are fighting,” said Staff Sgt. Tim Carter, who has survived six roadside bomb attacks. “If I see them placing a roadside bomb or firing at us, then that’s who we are fighting, but otherwise there is no way to tell if he is a civilian or al Qaeda. Here, a kid can run up to shake your hand and then later throw a grenade at you.”

    …”I think the (American) people think the war is over,” Carter said. “But they don’t realize the amount of contact that we receive out here.”

    Today, 20 people were killed in an ambush near Baquba after an attack on a police checkpoint. Yesterday, two roadside bombs went off in Baghdad. Sunni militias are preparing to re-start the civil war. The Kurdish Peshmerga is getting ready to fight for parts of Diyala.

    Talabani will probably veto the elections law (again) because it doesn’t allow elections in Kirkuk, and that’s a deal-breaker for the Kurds.

  2. In Iraq – no one claims it’s paradise. Of course there is going to be some residual resistance (to not think such would be naive). Yon et al. have also stated that Mosul would be al Qaeda’s last fall back area and there al Qaeda is not fairing well (or welcome) either. Hence the time to, again, try to get some more attention turned to Afghanistan which many have ignored for years now.

    As for the NIE, it’s still in draft stage and should come as no surprise given Mullen’s comments as reported and linked to above. It will be interesting to see how many of the concerns noted in the NIE are addressed (also noted above) before the final version is approved. It may well be outdated but, hopefully, provide some impetus to continue to turn more attention and resources to AfPak.

  3. When I was in the U.S. Army, in training exercises we went against the generic “Aggressor Army.” Seems to me that in Iraq “Al-Qaeda” is also just a name being used as a placeholder for whoever the hell it is that’s shooting at our forces at any given time.

    Back home, right-wing politicians love to reference “Al-Qaeda” in the context of Iraq because it falsely implies we are fighting the organization that attacked the USA in 2001.

    I’m sure you realize the Afghanistan NIE is complete, and it’s being called a draft because it’s politically inconvenient to release it until after Election Day. A major overhaul of Afghanistan strategy is urgently needed, but it won’t happen on President Bush’s watch.

  4. First, thank you for you service. Which division were you with?

    Al Qaeda is in Iraq that is a fact. you may not want to believe it but it is a clearly established fact.

    Usually an NIE has several drafts, that’s nothing new. It’s going to reflect what Mullen has already said. We already know that and it’s time to move on those recommendations.

    Of course, as you say, Bush won’t do anything. Don’t click the links and ignore Petraeus’ assignment if you want to keep this view.

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