Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Afghanistan Genie: Wish Three

The war in Afghanistan is a funny thing. Who ever thought that Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, George Will, and Cindy Sheehan would all agree on something? For that matter, who thought that a band of neocons including Sarah Palin and I would basically agree?
But at a time when our presence in Afghanistan is being compared to everything from Vietnam to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (ignoring the many obvious differences) hope and optimism can spring from the most unlikely places. We were all waiting on General McChrystal's strategic review, which apparently will not be released publicly. But Laura Rozen, in her job over at Politico, unearthed a gem dated August 10th entitled "United States Government Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign for Support to Afghanistan." Wow. Why didn't THIS receive more publicity? A coordinated approach from McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Eikenberry, what a concept. The plan seems very well thought out, I'm highly impressed. I challenge anyone to read the plan and not be more optimistic than they were before. It leans very heavily on counterinsurgency theory, but it doesn't make the mistake so many Beltway think tankers do of equating COIN with actual strategy.
You may recall that I first wished we would actually hit Baitullah Mehsud with a Predator drone strike after so many tries, and with my second wish asked for actual metrics for success in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). Well guess what? The "Integrated Civ-Mil Campaign" plan contains metrics! Not the National Security Council's metrics, set to be delivered to Congress by September 24th, but pretty good ones. The loquacious Spencer Ackerman has a very nice write up of the metrics.
So what should I wish for with my third wish? A job on the National Security Council? Fifteen minutes alone in a room with Holbrooke to try to talk sense to him? Those seem in the realm of possibility; my other option--magically having the personnel for an actual "civilian surge"--does not.

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