Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Kolenda on Afghanistan: dull but good

When I labored at the Wall Street Journal we used to refer to some front page stories on the economy or industrial production trends as "DBIs," which stood for "Dull But Important." I thought of that when reading a piece by Army Col. Chris Kolenda in the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly. Kolenda, who ...

Tambako the Jaguar/flickr
Tambako the Jaguar/flickr
Tambako the Jaguar/flickr

When I labored at the Wall Street Journal we used to refer to some front page stories on the economy or industrial production trends as "DBIs," which stood for "Dull But Important." I thought of that when reading a piece by Army Col. Chris Kolenda in the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly.

Kolenda, who played a major role in the recent review of Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy, lays out a clear, coherent statement of what our current strategy is, and how it aims to achieve progress. The whole article is kind of smart but dull. That's fine with me. Sometimes important is dull.

There isn't a lot to quote in the article. Looking it over, this is the best I can do:

When I labored at the Wall Street Journal we used to refer to some front page stories on the economy or industrial production trends as "DBIs," which stood for "Dull But Important." I thought of that when reading a piece by Army Col. Chris Kolenda in the new issue of Joint Forces Quarterly.

Kolenda, who played a major role in the recent review of Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy, lays out a clear, coherent statement of what our current strategy is, and how it aims to achieve progress. The whole article is kind of smart but dull. That’s fine with me. Sometimes important is dull.

There isn’t a lot to quote in the article. Looking it over, this is the best I can do:

Bad governance — the abuse of power for personal interest — is a greater problem [than armed militants] in the eyes of Afghans. Nearly every conversation I have had with rural Afghans aligns with myriad surveys and analyses — corruption and abuse of power are at or near the top of themes cited as major drivers of instability.

Tom again: This is in fact the biggest question I have about American policy in the war. I know what McChrystal intends to do with the Taliban. But I don’t understand how the U.S. government intends to improve the behavior of the Karzai government. It is a puzzlement. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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