The author of this important report in Politics Daily (also attached below), Dave Wood, is a very experienced combat reporter and one of the very best US reporters covering Afghanistan. (Truth in advertising: I have known and admired Dave for 25 years.) Wood has produced an an excellent, if grim, Afghan SITREP that is well worth studying carefully, including its hotlinks.
I think it would be a mistake to conclude that the situation being in a kind a balance, because we are in a strategic stalemate, however. While it is probably true we are in a strategic stalemate in the strictest sense of term ‘strategic,’ every year the Taliban is able to maintain its menacing posture gives the insurgents additional leverage at the far more decisive grand-strategic level of conflict: To wit, ask yourself if any of the following five trends (which are inversions of the five criteria defining a successful grand strategy) is way out of line:
(1) Polls tell us that the political will at home to continue this war is slowing deteriorating;
(2) our allies are also going wobbly and some have already pulled the plug;
(3) uncommitted countries are not being attracted to our cause and our warlike activities are alienating many in the Muslim world;
(4) the insurgents’ will to resist shows no sign of weakening; and
(5) no one the US government has a clue how to end this conflict on favorable terms for the United States that do not sow the seeds of future conflict in the region, or with Islam.
The Afghan insurgents may not understand grand strategy in these terms, but they understand instinctively that they can outlast invaders, because they believe they have done it before to Alexander the Great, the British at the height of their imperial power, and the Soviets. Is there anyone who not think the the insurgents’ moral is being boosted by the prospect of outlasting the Americans?
A simple grand-strategic analysis reveals that time is clearly on the Taliban’s side and to assume that battle hardened leaders of the Taliban do not understand this is just a tad optimistic, to put it charitably. In fact, the breakdown of President Obama’s strategic review last December, which devolved into a dispute over when to leave, simply reinforced the obvious.
The Afghanistan War: Tactical Victories, Strategic Stalemate?
David Wood, Politics Daily, 13 February 2011
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