August 24, 2009

What Every American Sould Know About Afghanistan in 1,000 Words*

Someone in Holbrooke's team has been speaking to the chief diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, and the result is a news article that pretty much hits on most of the key points on the war in Afghanistan: the war is going badly in the east and south; we do not have enough troops; the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura Taliban are on the rise; what the Karzai government is doing and is not doing are having huge effects on our efforts; and we've got a limited amount of time to turn this thing around.

Just painting an accurate portrait of what is taking place on the ground in Afghanistan, though, is only the first of two things that need to happen. The second is to develop and explain a strategy for dealing with those realities and challenges. Congressional leaders are 100% right to demand this on behalf of their constituents. The task of explaining our strategy to the Amercian people will fall to Gens. McChrystal and Petraeus. The task of explaining why this war is worth fighting in the first place must fall to the president. Both tasks need to be taken care of sooner rather than later.

[MG Curtis Scaparrotti of the 82nd Airborne Division obviously made an impression on whoever he briefed in Holbrooke's team, and it is not hard to see why. Over the course of two two-hour meetings, he struck me, personally, as a really keen officer with two very smart deputies -- including BG Kurt Fuller, who has really elevated the whole "I'm-just-a-simple-country-boy-but-am-also-smarter-than-everyone-in-the-room" thing to high art. (Being from East Tennessee, I get really suspicious whenever anyone says, "Now, I'm just a simple man, but...") I was really impressed with the entire team working under MG Scaparrotti in RC-East, and for a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Ranger Battalion to say kind words about the 82nd Airborne, well...]

*Before some Afghanistan specialist like Foust jumps all over me, let me state the obvious, which is that the war in Afghanistan is -- like the country itself -- too complex to explain in 1,000 words. But I thought this article was a good start for the average Joe reading the paper on a commuter train on his way to do something smart like make money -- rather than run a blog on counterinsurgency.