Friday, February 20, 2015

There is No Future History

I remain concerned about Afghanistan. Although the evidence for eventual success stands alongside evidence for defeat, I can't say that I have a feel for the war.

Is Afghanistan losing the war?

Europeans think Afghanistan is losing control of the countryside:

"The overall trend is one of decreasing government control outside the larger towns and cities, escalating violence and more insurgent attacks," observed the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

In its latest report, Afghanistan Security Situation , released on 13 February, EASO noted that Taliban, Hezb-e Islami Afghanistan, and other insurgent groups operating in the country are carrying out more large-scale attacks against the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

There seems to be evidence for optimism and pessimism.

Unlike Iraq, where the flow of news reports--even when the press misinterpreted events--allowed me to get a feel for the ebb and flow of the effort, there is so little news out of Afghanistan that I just never have gotten that "feel" for the war.

So reports make credible cases for eventual victory and eventual defeat.

Which only makes sense, really. The future is not predetermined with only our analysis of what the future will be in doubt. We could win. Or we could lose.

Which is why I am worried about disengaging completely from Afghanistan too soon--the way we did in Iraq. The outcome is in doubt and our efforts will help determine whether we eventually win or eventually lose.

UPDATE: Secretary of Defense Carter went to Afghanistan as his first foreign trip. He said we may slow our pace of withdrawal:

The United States is considering slowing a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to ensure that "progress sticks" after more than a decade of war, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday.

We're supposed to get down to 5,000 by the end of this year and then leave by next year's end. That rate may be slowed down--but not the zero state at the end of 2016.

Pardon me for being cynical, but is this just an effort to claim progress in Afghanistan and make a tiny adjustment in troop strength as if that will defend it, and so allow President Obama to escape blame for defeat after he leaves office by allowing him to say he did all he could?

By all accounts, Carter is a decent sort. So I'll count on his assessment as being honest.

That doesn't speak to why his boss agreed to consider changes in the drawdown, of course.