FP.com: Defining Victory to Win a War

08.10.09

Categorie: Afghanistan, David Axe, Jason Reich, Politics |

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After nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan, the United States has still not defined what it considers success. It needs to do so — and here’s how.

by DAVID AXE, MALOU INNOCENT and JASON REICH

After nearly a decade at war in Afghanistan, the United States still has not defined the terms of the conflict. Seven months after President Barack Obama’s administration released its wide-ranging strategic review of the war, basic questions remain. Who is the enemy? What are the objectives? Is counterinsurgency meant to achieve the goal of counterterrorism (beating al Qaeda), state-building (bringing stability and democracy to Afghanistan), or both? What would “victory” in Afghanistan even look like? And how will the war stay won, after the United States leaves?

Without knowing the answers to such questions, the United States has no way of determining whether it is succeeding. And as long as it continues to conflate military and state-building objectives, the United States will always appear to be losing. But by focusing on stamping out al Qaeda with a light military footprint and accepting an Islamist government in Afghanistan, the United States has an opportunity for unqualified success.

Indeed, by most military standards, the United States has already achieved numerous victories. In early October 2001, a small number of U.S. personnel working in tandem with sympathetic Afghans punished al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbored the terrorist group. Although it hasn’t met its goal of capturing Osama bin Laden, the United States has still seriously degraded al Qaeda’s global capabilities — a major win.

But perceptions have lagged behind reality. Many U.S. policymakers, defense officials, and prominent opinion leaders still tend to lump al Qaeda (a loose, transnational jihadist network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks) together with the Taliban (an indigenous Pashtun-dominated movement with no shadowy global mission). Because of this conflation, the suppression of al Qaeda is not seen as the victory it is — and disproportionate focus is placed on suppressing the Taliban.

Read the rest at FP.com.

(Photo: via FP.com)

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2 Responses to “FP.com: Defining Victory to Win a War”

  1. [...] It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself. [...]

  2. [...] It was a war we thought we’d won. But after eight years of escalating violence, the Afghanistan conflict has morphed into something perhaps unwinnable. U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, a goal we’ve largely achieved. But in years of occupation, Washington has apparently conflated counter-terrorism with nation-building. Now the U.S., NATO and their allies are struggling to destroy a deeply-rooted insurgency in country with a corrupt, ineffective government, poor infrastructure and few prospects for everyday people, but to fight. David Axe visits U.S. forces to see for himself. [...]

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