Meanwhile, "the trust of the Afghan people" is the holy grail of the Washington establishment, and, even after retiring from the military, Gen. David Petraeus, now director of the CIA, remains chief myth-maker. "Earn the people's trust," Petraeus wrote in a signal "Counterinsurgency Guidance" issued Aug. 1, 2010. From his list of how-tos -- which range from dispense payola ("COIN-contracting"), to "help them develop checks and balances to prevent abuses" (good luck with that), to "drink lots of tea" -- one order stands out, particularly in light of this week's report on amputations resulting from foot patrols.
Petraeus wrote: "Walk. Stop by, don't drive by. Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population."
One year later, the Army is reckoning with the carnage and after-care requirements that are consequences of this key tactic of COIN strategy. It is high time for the rest of us to reckon with them, too. Is COIN working? Is the burden of suffering that the nation is placing on the military worth the return? Frankly, when it comes to winning "the trust of the Afghan people," is there any return?
These questions didn't come up in the new report, naturally. Which isn't to say the report was devoid of political consciousness. By way of background, the report defines "dismounted complex blast injury" as a new pattern of injury. The definition is: "An injury caused by an explosion occurring to a Service Member while dismounted in a combat theater that results in amputation of at least one lower extremity at the knee or above, with either amputation or severe injury to the opposite lower limb, combined with pelvic, abdominal or urogenital injury. This definition is not meant to define a subset of injuries for policy-making decisions."