Operation Forever War
Friday was the 10th anniversary of the launch of the war in Afghanistan, launched less than 30 days after the terrible events of September 11th, 2001. The war on the Taliban was originally called "Operation Infinite Justice" but was renamed Operation Enduring Freedom when somebody decided that "Infinite Justice" had a creepy fundamentalist tinge or something. Infinite Justice also suggests an operation never meant to end, and maybe the name change was meant to avoid that suggestion, although evidently it would have been more honest.
Why are we still in Afghanistan? Because we are needed? Because they want us there? This is pretty unlikely. When an American reporter goes to some rural village, surrounded by US soldiers and asks if they want us to be there, what are they going to say? "No, get lost, and take those gun-toting soldiers with you, they're really ticking us off!" I wonder what Americans think when they're told we're needed or wanted in Afghanistan.
Slate, Gen. McChrystal: "After 10 Years, Our Work in Afghanistan Is Only Halfway Done"
McChrystal: "Frighteningly simplistic" view of the country has crippled the war effort.
By Will Oremus | Posted Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, at 12:01 PM ET
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, McChrystal said the United States had a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country when it invaded, CBS News reports. Even today, McChrystal argued, the country lacks the understanding needed to complete the mission successfully.
“We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough,” he said. “Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”Knowledge isn’t the only problem, he added. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was a costly diversion that has tarnished Muslims’ perception of the United States.
The most difficult task still ahead, he continued, is building a credible Afghan government that could rule the country peacefully once outside forces withdraw.
The celebrated personal difficulties between BHO and McChrystal notwithstanding, the language above, in which McC describes GWB's decision as a "costly diversion", suggests that he's 'on message' with the Obama administration in terms of delivering the right talking points. But whether it's McChrystal or Petraus, or Condoleezza Rice or Gates or Hilary Clinton delivering the speech, and whether it's 2005 or 2009 or 2011, the message is depressingly similar. A superficial understanding isn't the problem. They don't want us there, and will never want us there, at least not as occupiers imposing our will.
People like McChrystal must know this, even if they feel they also have to support doomed policies, apparently because it's expected of them. I don't know if this is sad or monstrous. I suppose it's both.
I wrote about the Af-Pak war at some length in the summer of 2009, here and here. While the US may have killed bin Laden since then, I fail to see what has otherwise changed, or even how killing him has changed the war. More people have needlessly died, on all sides, who were alive in 2009. What else?
Even the reliably hawkish Fred Kaplan acknowledges that the Af-Pak war is going badly:
As for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who appeared alongside Mullen at Thursday's hearing, it is hard to tell whether his spin on recent events was evasive, delusional, naïve, or a combination of the three. The assault on the embassy, Panetta insisted, marks "a sign of weakness in the insurgency." Having been dealt a string of setbacks on the battlefield, the insurgents are now shifting tactics to go after "high-profile" targets, such as Afghan officials, peace negotiators, and the American embassy. This shift, Panetta said, will have no effect on the Taliban's "odds of military success."
Hearts, Minds, and Murders: The killing of Hamid Karzai's brother means the war in Afghanistan is going worse than we thought
Two from Greg Scoblete, How Important is Af-Pak?
The Alluring, Enduring Myth of Energy Independence
and, A decade of war [via BDR]