July 12, 2010

The trials and tribulations of a general in Afghanistan

Check out CNAS adviser David Barno's piece in the Financial Times.

"In the region, clocks are set to July 2011, a date widely believed to be the start of a rapid US withdrawal, and the subsequent resumption of a new internecine Afghan war - one in which all the important actors are already manoeuvring for advantage. Gen Petraeus must find ways to both put time back on the clock through battlefield success, improved governance and more effective civil-military integration. To do this, he must convince the wary protagonists that the US is staying, and that America's interests trump any temptation to replay the precipitate American disengagement after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989."

Pakistani journalists, government people, military people, well-to-do professionals, guys who sit in blankets in road side stops smoking and drinking tea.. everyone thinks that the US will be getting out of Afghanistan no matter what. Even if they don't have any real solid reason for thinking so, the fact that they do creates its own dynamic.

I'm told something similar is true in Afghanistan

So the challange for the US, and Gen. Petraeus in particular, how to square domestic pressure to end America's longest war while not giving the impression in the region that the US is about to leave.

i was at a conference about communications in conflict recently, one of the speakers said that you can't give conflicting messages to different audiences. I can see why.

So spare a thought for Gen Petraeus. He seriously has his work cut out for him.