Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
The American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War has a new report out that says rather unequivocally that the United States is starting to turn the war around in southern Afghanistan following the surge. Since the deployment of U.S. Marines to Helmand in 2009 and the launch of an offensive there followed by operations in Kandahar, the Taliban has effectively lost all its main safe havens in the region, authors Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan argue.
The Taliban assassination squad in Kandahar has ben dismantled, the insurgents’ ability to acquire, transport and use IED materials and other weapons has been disrupted, and narcotics facilitators and financiers who link the drug market to the insurgency have been aggressively targeted. Above all, NATO and Afghan forces continue to hold all the areas they have cleared in the two provinces, arguably the heart of the insurgency, which is a significant departure from the past.
The war is far from over, large parts of the country remain under insurgent control, and there is limited, if not negligent political progress in the areas re-taken from the Taliban. But the momentum of the insurgency in the south has unquestionably been arrested and probably reversed, the authors say.
Is the ground really shifting, and if so, what’s behind this breakthrough ? Part of the reason is the arrival of 30,000 U.S. troops under the surge which military commanders said was necessary to make a dent in an insurgency at its deadliest since 2001. Another 1,400 Marines have just been ordered , all part of efforts to crush the Taliban so America can make an honourable ext from its longest war yet. But it is not just more troops that General David Petraeus has thrown at the resilient Taliban.
US and NATO forces in Afghanistan recently sent out a news release apparently highlighting that teachers in a school supported by international troops were going unpaid for weeks, or even months.That wasn’t the headline of course — we were told “Uruzgan teachers to begin receiving salaries” but just three paragraphs in was the news that the school reopened on September 23.And the six teachers shouldn’t expect their modest 5,000 Afghanis (just over $100) salary for at least another few weeks it added — mentioning only that pay would arrive “in the coming weeks”.
The military are sending out far more news releases than just a few months ago, with even relatively small operations highlighted, more frequent updates on major operations, and more reports on aid projects and ventures like a children’s day in Bamiyan province. Recent headlines include: “Coalition and Afghan Border Police living on the edge” , “Female engagement team builds bridges into Afghan society” , “Afghan National Army honoured at concert” and “Afghan masons ‘build’ sustainability through concrete training”.
Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy is on an embed in Kandahar airfield where U.S.-led NATO troops are preparing an operation against the Taliban in their southern Afghan stronghold. Here’s a glimpse of life on the base.
By Michael Georgy
I walked by TGI Friday’s and a Canadian brand coffee shop as men and women playing volleyball looked like they were enjoying
the beach in California. People were drinking milkshakes along a lovely boardwalk. There was a French-style patisserie for those seeking a bit of European culture.
Only 41 percent of likely U.S. voters believe that the country can win the war in Afghanistan, a new poll shows, down from 51 percent in December when President Barack Obama announced a new war strategy. The Rasmussen telephone poll conducted last week found that 36 percent of those surveyed didn’t think the United States could win in Afghanistan. Another 23 percent were unsure.
Doubts about the handling of the Afghan war have continuously been growing, except for that spike in hopes soon after Obama announced a surge as part of his strategy to stabilise Afghanistan and bring the troops home. Indeed, 48 percent of those polled said ending the war now was a more important goal than winning it, reflecting falling confidence in the war effort.
Six months into the surge in Afghanistan, Americans and Afghans alike are asking the question whether it has worked and the ugly reality is that it has failed to make a difference, writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.
To be sure, as U.S. President Barack Obama said last week only half the reinforcements he ordered in December have arrived and there is still more than a year to go before the troop withdrawals begin.
At some point this month or early June, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will outnumber those in Iraq, writes Michael E. O ‘Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. It’s an artificial milestone but it is worth noting because it tells you a good deal about the two wars and where the United States stands in each.
The cross-over is also a measure of how big and rapid has the shift been in America’s military power toward Afghanistan since President Barack Obama took office last year promising to bring the troops home.