"Like the Soviets we continue to bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people."
That's the utterly prescient synopsis of the West's dilemma in Afghanistan by former US foreign service officer Matthew Hoh in his letter in which he resigned in protest over the AfPak war.
Unfortunately, Mr. Hoh has nailed it. Like the Soviets before us, in their turn, we're trying to convert what is essentially a feudal state into a modern state in our own image. But didn't MacArthur do just that in Japan? Sure he did but only after Japan was militarily defeated, its people's morale crushed and the country occupied. We never defeated Afghanistan. We simply helped the rebellious Northern Alliance warlords send the Taliban packing. There's a huge difference in that. We didn't dismantle the warlord structure. We didn't conquer the Afghani people and the miniscule force we did deploy to their country was anything but a post-WWII style occupation. Trying to draw parallels between today's Afghanistan and post-war Germany or Japan is ridiculous.
You can't fight an insurgency "on the cheap" (Petraeus) and that's just what we've been doing these past eight years. We have squandered opportunities that we just can't get back. In this type of warfare you don't get do-overs (Petraeus). The current honcho, General McChrystal says he wants to start all over again. You can't do that. You'll always be stuck with the baggage of those eight lost years. You have gone from being seen as liberator/defender to occupier/oppressor (Petraeus). Your "best before" date has lapsed. These are the inescapable consequences of eight years of screwing up. You can't start over unless you can reverse time. The enemy you face today is not the enemy of 2001-2002. The eager, welcoming civilian population you had in 2001-2002 is no more. The government you installed in the wake of the ouster of the old regime has defied your every hope and expectation. You stood amidst the most warlike people in that region, if not the world, a culture that has driven out one omnipotent invader after another and yet, after eight years, were unable to build an adequate army. The country has lapsed into a failed state and you have neither the resources nor the will to turn that around.
Hoh is right. The situation today is merely a continuation of a 35-year old civil war. We have no business fighting another country's civil war - because we can't win it. We've been babysitting this civil war for eight years. It's time to hand it back.