Take Afghanistan Report With a Grain of Salt

Jillian Bandes

12/17/2010 10:08:00 AM - Jillian Bandes

While the DADT debate rages on, the recent Afghanistan report has gone virtually unnoticed. The report detailed the progress we have and haven’t made – mostly haven’t, if you read between the lines – and reiterates Obama's intention to withdraw troops next July.

Obama emphasized that all of the U.S. plans for withdrawl are “very frail,” bringing into question exactly what the report was supposed to explain. The NYT is pessimistic:

Already, parts of the country with fewer troops are showing a deterioration of security, and the gains that have been made were hard won, coming at the cost of a third more casualties among NATO forces this year.

Then there are the starkly different timelines being used in Washington and on the ground. President Obama is on a political timetable, needing to assure a restless public and his political base that a withdrawal is on track to begin by the deadline he set of next summer and that he can show measurable success before the next election cycle.

Afghanistan, and the American military, are running on a different clock, based on more intractable realities. Some of the most stubborn and important scourges they face — ineffectual governance, deep-rooted corruption and the lack of a functioning judicial system — the report barely glanced at.
Conversely, Adm. Mike Mullen reports that "the enemy is losing" in Afghanistan, though he recognizes that coalition victories are tenuous. He highlighted Pakistan as a source of ongoing threats, and said that the recent Afghanistan report wasn't meant to reiterate the entire U.S. strategy. Perhaps is was meant as a sort of dismal cheerleading attempt.