Can We Still Win in Afghanistan?

Pessimism grows in D.C. policy circles

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Almost nine years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, American and British pundits are turning increasingly pessimistic about our prospects for victory there, whatever that victory may mean. On Monday, the first good news out of Afghanistan in some time--the alleged discovery of $1 trillion in mineral wealth--was met with widespread skepticism. As we look forward to what will surely be a difficult and violent summer of fighting, is it time to reevaluate the mission in Afghanistan?

  • Pessimism Growing in D.C. Policy Circles  On the front page of the Washington Post, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe announce, "A series of political and military setbacks in Afghanistan has fed anxiety over the war effort in the past few weeks, shaking supporters of President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy and confirming the pessimism of those who had doubts about it from the start. The concerns, fed largely by unease over military operations in southern Afghanistan that are progressing slower than anticipated, spurred lawmakers to schedule last-minute hearings this week to assess progress on the battlefield and within the Afghan government."
  • This Conflict Has No 'Happy Ending'  The U.K. Telegraph's Mary Riddell compares the war in Afghanistan to the British struggle in Northern Ireland. Both have been costly, she says, but only the latter produced something worthwhile. "Mr Cameron is eager that Britons, of whom around 75 per cent now want our soldiers out, are persuaded the war is working and security is being established. The trouble is that neither of these things is true."
  • Taliban Regaining Momentum  The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports from Marjah, where a recent offensive has failed to rout the Taliban. "Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them."
  • Not Enough Attention on Failures  The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl worries, "The White House hasn't had to do much defending of its Afghan policy since President Obama announced it in December. While that's a welcome change from the poisonous polarization of the Bush-era Iraq debate, it is also lamentable in one important way: Not many people are noticing the growing problems in the president's surge strategy."
  • U.K. Joining U.S. in 'Giving Up'  The U.K. Spectator's Melanie Phillips frets, "it is marching in lockstep with Obama out of Afghanistan, regardless of whether or not the Afghans really are capable of holding the Taleban at bay. And as we can see from the satirically-named new ‘national security driven’ approach, Britain is sliding the bar that the Afghans have to clear in order to show they are up to the task downwards -- to merely ‘some stability’, for heaven’s sake -- in order to cover the fact that the British and Americans are effectively giving up on Afghanistan."
  • Liberals Should More Vocally Oppose War  The New Republic's Michael Cohen writes, "Members of left-leaning, DC-based think tanks and advocacy organizations have either tacitly supported the Afghanistan strategy or offered tactical suggestions to improve a policy that some privately believe is irredeemable. These are the groups that should be providing the policy ammunition for liberals to speak more authoritatively on Afghanistan."
  • Public Indifference Enables Obama  The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart explains, "the public’s boredom and disillusionment with international affairs actually makes it easier for the Obama administration to sustain U.S. deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Richard Nixon realized when he ended the draft in 1973, and thus sucked the oxygen out of the anti-Vietnam movement, it’s easier to prosecute a war when that war doesn’t directly affect the vast majority of Americans"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.