September 17, 2012

Afghanistan: yeah, it's pretty much over

US suspends joint operations with Afghan army in wake of recent green-on-blues.

Militarily significant? Not as much as you'd think. But yeah... the mutual hatred and misunderstanding is clearly now at such intolerable levels it's difficult to see any way back even to where we were 3 years ago. As a veteran of this particular fight, I'm not surprised any more, but still disappointed. I wish the outcome could have been different, but not with the inputs going in. I hate to say it, but in retrospect the 2009 US surge into Afghanistan was pretty much a failure. What was needed then was a different vision, involving a radical drawdown of the Western presence and retrenching to what was achievable, if there was even any chance of salvaging anything long term by that point. My personal hopes that we had held the line in a dysfunctional environment until the US could get there in mid 2009 were basically shattered on the realization that that surge--with all of its trying to apply the Iraq surge template to a very different country--just made everything all the more dysfunctional still.

I will say one thing though, about the anonymous spox comment that "we can't trust these people." We never trusted them. Ever. Not as far as we could throw them. And they never trusted us in return. Maybe because that's because we grew the Afghan army too fast. Maybe that's because we had insufficient people we could mentor the right way, with all the cultural immersion and risk and unorthodoxy that entailed. Maybe that's because ultimately their war aims and ours were completely divergent, something we could never ever paper over. Maybe all of the above. But the trust was always something you could measure in a teaspoon. Hospitality? sure (at least by them); politeness? no doubt. But tangible, operationally-significant trust between fellow soldiers? Yeah, not so much.

See also Pat Lang.

UPDATE: In retrospect, the suspension of Afghan Local Police training was indicative.

Posted by BruceR at 10:28 PM