Under General Stanley McChrystal’s leadership, the US military not only surged forces into Afghanistan but specifically put an emphasis on military operations in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban’s grip was strongest. Gilles Dorronsoro was, I recall, skeptical of this idea saying it was unlikely to bring victory in the south and more likely to instead simply let the Taliban make progress elsewhere. To wit, Spencer Ackerman takes a look at the shape of things in the east:
Last month, Army Colonel Randy George completed a year-long tour leading the nearly 5800 soldiers of Task Force Mountain Warrior in some of Afghanistan’s most violent and vexing areas: Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar, and Laghman provinces, a mountainous part of the country home to about 3.7 million people, 33 tribes and sub-tribes, and over 300 kilometers’ worth of porous border with tribal Pakistan. After a yearlong effort to learn how the locals perceived the obstacles to their future, George prepared some briefing slides attempting to distill popular local sentiments. (He did not make any broader judgment about any other areas of Afghanistan.) Danger Room was recently able to review some of those slides and take notes on their contents, although we weren’t permitted to take them or reproduce them.
George titled of those slides “How Locals Ranked The Enemies To Progress.” Through the locals’ eyes, the slide reported four big challenges. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban rank dead last. A “Corrupt and Ineffective Government” is number one.
To my eye, the argument that the United States has a moral obligation to not abandon Afghans who want our help fighting the Taliban is quite strong. The argument that the United States has some compelling strategic interest in spending billions of dollars a year on helping Hamid Karzai control remote areas of Afghanistan where he and his government are disliked seems much weaker.