A war of necessity, nine years in
I was listening to a CSIS podcast while I was getting my lunch; it was a press briefing from July where Anthony Cordesman (who served on Gen. McChrystal’s Strategic Assessment Group this year) gave his own views on Afghanistan. [You can listen there, download the mp3, or search for “CSIS” on iTunes.]
It was too short, as pretty much every single CSIS podcast is–they seem to only give soundbites–but he said something that stood out to me:
In fact, seven years after we entered the war, one of the most striking things about Afghanistan is how many people are still acting like this was the first year in Afghanistan.
It rings rather true, doesn’t it? On the civilian side, anyway, which is what Cordesman seemed to be arguing at the time. As we go into the ninth year of our engagement in this war, and the president is still reviewing his methodology even as we assume that he retains the same strategy, one has to wonder: is this, in one sense, the first year of the war in Afghanistan? Not to engage in sophistry, but the first post 9/11 offensive in Afghanistan was 7 October 2001; eighteen months later, on 20 March 2003, was the invasion of Iraq. If you take Tom Rick’s account to be true, the preparation for that invasion actually began barely a month after our movement in Afghanistan:
Formal Pentagon consideration of how to attack Iraq began in November 2001, just after the fall of Kabul. By early December, Army General Tommy R. Franks, the career artilleryman who had succeeded Zinni as the head of the Central Command, was shuttling between his headquarters, located in Tampa, Florida, and Washington, D.C., reviewing planning for an invasion of Iraq. “There was a sense of urgency to get a conceptual plan in front of the president,” recalled Air Force Major General Victor Renuart, who held the key job of director of operations for the Central Command, and who accompanied Franks to most of his Washington meetings.
I suspect there is a general consensus that ISAF in Afghanistan is under-resourced, in personnel, treasure, and Western public interest. (Please tell me if you disagree.) And we can put that lack of resources, I think, at the feet of the Iraq invasion. And now as we begin to draw down troops in Iraq and our attention has turned back to oh-hey-that-other-war-we’re-fighting in Afghanistan, we find that meeting the goals of our strategy, meeting the metrics of that strategy, requires a little more consideration.
Are we, not only state personnel, not only the White House, but we as a public, we as a blogging community, we as journalists and military folk and Americans–are we treating this as if it’s the first year of the war in Afghanistan? Because it sort of seems like we are.