A great pair of stories about Afghanistan on NPR this morning.
First, this report on the looming Taliban spring offensive. The last several spring offensives have fallen short of Taliban hype, so the Taliban are starting to acquire a boy-who-cried-”terrorist” reputation; but the general upshot of the story is that prospects for strategic success this year in Afghanistan–or even turning the corner–are not good.
There is a tendency among experts to assess the strategic success or failure of a mission without carefully considering what the objective was in the first place. For example, many assume that pacifying Afghanistan is a short-term strategic goal for the United States. That is the goal in the long-run, of course, but right now, operations in Afghanistan are already producing vital benefits for U.S. security. Even if the operations go on for years, and our fortunes wax and wane with every campaign season as far as they eye can see, the fact that we are fighting them over there means it’s less likely we’ll have to fight them here–and that in itself means defeat for the Taliban until and if they can get NATO forces to stop fighting them over there. One of the experts in the NPR story doubts we can “turn the corner.” But Al Qaeda no longer has a state sanctuary, and must now expend its energies on defense. The very fact that we’re over there, and we’re not leaving, means we’ve turned the corner.
The next segment in the pair of NPR stories is a gripping and colorful commentary by a U.S. captain serving in Afghanistan.