Game Changing Shifts in the Momentum in Afghanistan

On the situation in Afghanistan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen thinks the next 12 to 18 months will really tell the tale. And in comments to a Senate Appropriations panel, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that steps taken over the next 18 months to defeat the Taliban militias will ultimately decide whether the war in Afghanistan is being won or lost though the blunt but cautious Secretary went on to add that by this he does not mean the Afghan campaign would achieve success in that time, but rather that officials hoped to "see a shift in the momentum" by then. He might have a chat with Col. George Amland who spoke to reporters at Camp Leatherneck, a rapidly expanding base now home to around 7,000 U.S. Marines preparing to push deeper into Helmand province, telling them the arrival of new troops in Afghanistan is a "game changer".

From the New York Times:

President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer to beat back the Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion and create the conditions needed for the Afghan government to extend its influence and allow foreign forces to return home.

Helmand borders Pakistan, where U.S. and European commanders say Taliban insurgents have enjoyed a safe haven in recent years. Washington has targeted insurgents there with missiles fired from unmanned drones and is trying to get Islamabad to take firmer action, believing it to be essential for success in Afghanistan.

The Marines' current area of operations is around 18,000 square kilometers (7,000 square miles), but they are not yet present in the border area.

Amland, the deputy commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, said in the future the Marines and NATO forces "would address those traffic lines between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Britain has several thousand troops in Helmand that have proved unable to stop the insurgency, and critics have predicted Obama's troop surge may be too small and too late to defeat the Taliban.

Amland disputed that prediction, saying the troop deployment was "an appreciable investment" that would provide a base for the Afghan government and security forces to build on.

"It is a very big game changer to have this many Marines in an area this size," said Amland.

Tackling poverty and underdevelopment would be a game changer in the daily lives of the Afghan people, more troops is just more of an unending war. The Taliban cannot be defeated by militarily means alone.

It is somewhat curious, though not surprising, that we are being promised these game change shifts in the momentum in Afghanistan just as the War Supplemental is being debated in Washington.

Tags: Afghanistan, Col. George Amland, Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, Secretary Robert Gates (all tags)



RalphLopez seminal diaries from Kabul

are also pushing the same idea about development and jobs for Afghans

by louisprandtl 2009-06-09 12:32PM | 0 recs
Shifts in Afghanistan

You need SOME form of security before you can even begin to deal with poverty and/or underdevelopment.  Removal of the Military would only encourage poverty and underdevelopment, unless you envision Al Queda opening a bank for the locals to take out loans.  The Military is needed, and this time it is being managed by someone who seems to be trying to do things in Afghanistans best interest at the same time he is trying to put our (the US) best face forward.

It is a sad thing how Helmand, and Afghanistan, have been allowed to be "left behind" by the rest of the world.  But right now a hug will not solve the problem, nor will a loan from a Western Bank.  Nor will conversion to Christianity (just had to cover all the bases).

The security of a rifle barrel is harsh to live with, but it is a begining if USED CORRECTLY, and is better than the "security" of wafting extreemist Islamic theocratic overlordship  (ok, that is a bit thick, but you get the idea.)

I know that Military Rule is a harsh life for civilians, really, but I would much rather put someone's security (even my own families) in the hands of the US Military than in ANY religious sects hands.  Period.  The military, for all its faults, is often MORE accountable than religion for its transgressions.

by Hammer1001 2009-06-09 12:33PM | 0 recs
by ElwoodBlz 2009-06-09 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Game Changing Shifts...
"Tackling poverty and underdevelopment would be a game changer in the daily lives of the Afghan people, more troops is just more of an unending war."
I've always, Charles, been disappointed by your flogging of this false dichotomy.  I've always refrained from voicing my complaint because the quoted concept seems so central to all of your posts, and telling people that they're ignorant or wrong is, in my experience, less successful and more damaging than simply waiting for them to educate themselves.  But you're not going to come around on this one on your own, I see that now.
The idea that development and security are mutually exclusive is wrong on many levels.  From the start it ignores the process that leads to funding for the two different fields; pressure on Congress for military efforts comes from within the government itself, while pressure for development aid is heavily dependent on lobbying from the receiving country(Bonus: Afghanistan basically has no DC lobby).  Legislation is rarely grouped together, and when it is it happens at a juncture past the point when the two priorities would be balanced against each other as a single pool of money.  Beyond that, describing any government spending options as being locked in a zero-sum situation spreads the dangerously anti-Keynesian notion that the Government has finite immediate resources.  But also rendering your dichotomy false is the fact that the two specific cases, Afghan economic development and Afghan civil security, are so heavily inter-dependent; neither can have any enduring value or even immediate effect without the other!  Furthermore, implicit in statement is a series of assertions of monolithic objects; for your statement to be true, 'the Afghan people', 'the quality of life of Afghan people', and 'the state of war in Afghanistan', among others, would all have to be uniform conditions.  the fact that they are widely understood to be uniform conditions in the MSM does not excuse your invocation of them.  
You have repeatedly indicated how close to your heart the issue of armed conflict is to you, and I value the voice of one who recognizes the potential of the United States to fail and also to deceive, but you must not substitute personal experience for study--as with security and aid, these are things that must complement each other rather than be held in mutual abhorrence.
by Endymion 2009-06-09 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Game Changing Shifts...

I am not arguing the security and development are mutually exclusive, there is clearly a need for a certain level of stability and security to be extant before any major investments in infrastructure and human development can take hold.

While Afghanistan has no lobby, other a number of NGOs with limited efficacy, there do seem to be pressures for the US have a presence in the region. The energy riches of Central Asia seem a potent lure.  Until February I had been inclined to give the Administration the benefit of the doubt on its Afghan policy and while I have welcome some of the new policy objectives (buying off the Taliban for example I think has some potential), I have become increasingly concerned by the growing use of missle strikes. That suggests that we are losing the war.

The COIN strategy can work given proper resources and long-term support from the American people but I tend to doubt that the former will be given and are to begin with prohibitively expensive and the latter is likely to dissipate quickly if American deaths past a certain threshold. In this light, I have largely come to view the Biden approach of a minimalist counter-terrorism approach coupled with economic aid as the better approach.

I'll add one thing my bias is that of a developmentalist.

by Charles Lemos 2009-06-09 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Game Changing Shifts...

BTW, please don't refrain from commentig because honestly a healthy debate leads to a refining of arguments and that I think is one of the values of devoting our time to these projects. Concurrence is not my objective. Yes we all have views but many of mine are not fixed in stone.

by Charles Lemos 2009-06-09 02:29PM | 0 recs
12 to 18 months or 2 or 3 Friedmans


by Marc Davidson 2009-06-09 02:11PM | 0 recs


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