Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Barry McCaffrey on Afghanistan

McCaffrey is a retired four-star general now on the faculty at West Point. His trip report from a recent command-sponsored visit to Afghanistan is informed and hard-hitting. The bottom line is that progress is being made in Afghanistan but that major problems remain, including: dysfunctional and corrupt provincial and local government, ineffectual central government, widespread misery, and a resilient and growing Taliban threat. He emphasizes the need for nation-building (the task that Bush and Co. decried as beneath the sole superpower).

McCaffrey paints 2009 as a year of decision. Among the military problems he identifies is an inefficient, sometimes dysfunctional U.S. and NATO command structure, insufficient NATO resources, an Afghan army that is improving but still needs a lot of training and materiel, and an over-stretched U.S. military ("we are at the point of breaking faith with our troops").

If U.S. deployments are reduced as expected in Iraq, don't expect the troops to get a break. When the can't-shoot-straight-Bush gang finally leaves in January, the next president is going to have to finish the job that has was left unfinished in 2002 when assets were sucked away from Afghanistan to prepare for the Iraq invasion.

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