And that brings us to Afghanistan, which is not going very well. Hamid Karzai suddenly and capriciously fired the two members of his government that got along well with the United States. Coalition forces seem to be getting the hang of the COIN strategy in some areas, but the nature of Afghanistan fiercely resists it other areas. The political situation really has improved ... not at all.
So far this month, 18 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan, including the friend of one of my closest friends. Virtually every article I have read about the war features quotations from squadron colonels who say something to the effect of, well, we're making progress, but we need more time and more resources. In December, Obama is expected to review the Afghan surge, and it ought to surprise no one that most people in the military and the Pentagon policy team, led by Undersecretary of Defense Michelle Flournoy, are likely to urge him to stay at it -- to slow down any draw down of U.S. troops (and maybe, maybe, even add some troops) ... and certainly not to decide that rapidly withdrawing combat brigades is the right course of action.
President Obama will resist.
It will be a test of wills, bracketed by politics: can Democrats win a war? (Does Iraq count? Should it?) Is Afghanistan a winnable war? Should it be?
There will be a significant political debate on the eve of the first rounds of the 2012 elections. Given how nasty and unproductive these debates tend to be, this one won't be pretty. The right policy, whatever it is, will be heavily influenced by what latitude Americans, and Democrats in Congress, give the president. That, in turn, will be influenced by whether the military is able to show some progress and also by what else is going on in the world.
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