Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dazed and Confused

Marine Corps General Conway reminds us that far from being "resurgent" or whatever you want to claim they are, the Taliban are hurt:

He added that interrogations of Taliban prisoners have shown that they are getting tired of the war.

"They're getting hammered, to a much greater degree than we are," Conway said. "And they're asking themselves, 'Hey, is this all worth it?' And they're asking themselves that now."

Further, the thought that we will withdraw next summer is sustaining them in the fight despite the hammering they are taking:

"We think right now it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. . . . We've intercepted communications that say, hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long," he said.

But there is a silver lining to this enemy hope:

But if it turns out the Marines are still in Afghanistan after mid-2011, Conway said, insurgent leaders based in Pakistan could be hard pressed to explain themselves to their foot soldiers.

That has been on my mind a lot, actually, as a silver lining to all our summer 2011 withdrawal talk. At the beginning of 2007, I wondered if the hoped withdrawal of US forces from Iraq based on the 2006 election results and the Iraq Study Group report set up the enemy for a major morale hit once the surge started. I've never read anything on that to suggest my hunch is right. but at least the logic is sound, I guess.

I suspect that after convincing themselves that no matter how badly we are hammering them that they have to endure that hammering only for a finite time, that once that time period passes next summer and we are still hammering the Taliban that their morale will take a major hit. For at that point, they'll have to believe that the hammering will go on forever--or at least long enough to kill them.

Of course, I've never believed that we would just withdraw beginning next year. That assumption depends on whether the president can resist calls to pull out from Afghanistan faster than we should--or whether the president even wants to stay and fight.

UPDATE: Afghans agree with Conway about the impact of the impression that July 2011 is our deadline for fighting:

"This is giving more reason and propaganda for the anti-government elements to prolong the fight," Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimy said of Obama's timetable.

"Such assertions could be used in favor of insurgents for ... empowering their forces and giving reasons to fight," he said. "The withdrawal should be based on the capability of the Afghan security forces."

One would hope that we won't have yet another stupid debate over "exit strategies" from the war instead of focusing on "winning" the war.

But we will have that debate. The anti-war side that no longer feels compelled to claim they want to win the "good war" in Afghanistan will see to it.