Losing a War One Bad Metaphor at a Time, by William J. Astore

The US has been in Afghanistan for 16 years. The country is in far worse shape than when the US invaded, and there’s no end in sight to America’s longest war. From William J. Astore at tomdispatch.com:

America’s war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year, the longest foreign war in our history. The phrase “no end in sight” barely covers the situation. Prospects of victory — if victory is defined as eliminating that country as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — are arguably more tenuous today than at any point since the U.S. military invaded in 2001 and routed the Taliban. Such “progress” has, over the years, invariably proven “fragile” and “reversible,” to use the weasel words of General David Petraeus who oversaw the Afghan “surge” of 2010-2011 under President Obama. To cite just one recent data point: the Taliban now controls 15% more territory than it did in 2015.

That statistic came up in recent Senate testimony by the U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan, John “Mick” Nicholson Jr., who is (to give no-end-in-sight further context) the 12th U.S. commander since the war began. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he called for several thousand more U.S. troops to break what he optimistically described as a “stalemate.” Those troops would, he added, serve mainly as advisers and trainers to Afghan forces, facilitating what he labeled “hold-fight-disrupt” operations.

As to how long they would be needed, the general was vague indeed. He spoke of the necessity of sustaining “an enduring counter-terrorism (CT) platform” in Afghanistan to bottle up terrorist forces, so they wouldn’t, as he put it, hit us in the “homeland.” Indeed, the U.S. military considers what it has begun to speak of as a “generational” war in that country “successful” because no major attacks on the United States have had their roots in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. And that certainly qualifies as one of the stranger definitions of success in a perpetual war that lacks a sound strategy.

To continue reading: Losing a War One Bad Metaphor at a Time

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