Sunday, November 25, 2007

America's Shakey Assessment of Afghanistan

To listen to Peter MacKay and some Canadian generals, we're making solid progress in Afghanistan. That's the problem with listening to Peter MacKay and his generals. They can't afford to tell you how miserably "the mission" is faltering.

But, when it comes to tall tales you can expect the tallest to come from the Americans. So, what's their take on Afghanistan? According to the Washington Post, it's not nearly as rosey as the line coming out of Ottawa:

...the latest assessment [of the National Security Council] concluded that only "the kinetic piece" -- individual battles against Taliban fighters -- has shown substantial progress, while improvements in the other areas continue to lag, a senior administration official said.

This judgment reflects sharp differences between US military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban's unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating.

The contrasting views echo repeated internal disagreements over the Iraq war: While the military finds success in a virtually unbroken line of tactical achievements, intelligence officials worry about a looming strategic failure.

But one senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed was not authorized to discuss Afghanistan on the record, said such gains are fleeting. "One can point to a lot of indicators that are positive . . . where we go out there and achieve our objectives and kill bad guys," the official said. But the extremists, he added, seem to have little trouble finding replacements.

Although growing numbers of foreigners -- primarily Pakistanis -- are joining the Taliban ranks, several officials said the primary source of new recruits remains disaffected Afghans fearful of opposing the Taliban and increasingly disillusioned with their own government. Overall, "there doesn't seem to be a lot of progress being made. . . . I would think that from [the Taliban] standpoint, things are looking decent," the intelligence official said.

Senior White House officials privately express pessimism about Afghanistan.

At the moment, several officials said, their concern is focused far more on the domestic situation in Afghanistan, where increasing numbers are losing faith in Karzai's government in Kabul. According to a survey released last month by the Asia Foundation, 79 percent of Afghans felt that the government does not care what they think, while 69 percent felt that it is not acceptable to publicly criticize the government.

Gee, does anyone remember another conflict not all that long ago where America won every battle but finished up losing the war?

No comments: