- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Travels with Shiloh, a good blog new to me, covers a recent conference on counterinsurgency at Fort Leavenworth and comes away with the interesting conclusion that the U.S. military is not gonna get out of Afghanistan anytime soon:
While, current U.S. policy states that we’ll begin withdrawing our forces in 2011 there was a universal recognition that any real effort to apply COIN in Afghanistan would take a very long time. While the subject wasn’t addressed (except for one question at the final Q&A roundtable) my impression was that all of the speakers (British, Canadian and U.S.) were operating under the assumption that forces would be in place well beyond 2011. I heard no discussion about how to conduct any sort of hand off to the Afghans within 18 months, alterations to COIN theory or doctrine or trains of thought about alternate ways militaries could support/conduct COIN without significant numbers of forces on the ground. I would interpret that to mean that the military has been given the word (explicitly or implicitly) that that 2011 deadline is NOT set in stone. I would, in fact, go further and predict that barring some unforeseen change in the operating environment we will almost definitely have a significant presence in Afghanistan for some time.
I agree with this, and feel worse about it than I do about Iraq. I never thought invading Iraq was a good idea, but I thought (and still think) that invading Afghanistan was a correct response to 9/11.
He also offers this worrisome report:
We most definitely do NOT own the night. Just because we have night vision goggles doesn’t mean that much. We’re not generally active at night and initiative goes to those who move at night.
Part II of his report, about the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, is here.
(HT to CC)
Speaking of Afghanistan, I was sorry to see that the bombing near SW Kabul’s Darulaman Palace the other day killed one Canadian colonel, one U.S. Army colonel and two U.S. lieutenant colonels. A Canadian general survived the attack.