Magazine April 16, 2012, Issue

The Last Field Commander

General John R. Allen and a villager in Afghanistan (Bing West)
Can General John Allen save Afghanistan? Wrong question

Helmand Province, Afghanistan

In late August 2011, General John R. Allen visited a base built atop the ruins of a 19th-century British fort here. Allen, an avid historian, grasped the irony of the setting. Over the previous 150 years, two British armies and one Russian army had left Afghanistan in frustration. Now Allen was in command of the fourth army to leave. He is the last NATO field commander, charged with extracting 140,000 international troops from combat while fighting a war with an uncertain outcome against an enemy with a certain sanctuary in next-door Pakistan.

By this year’s end, Allen must reduce

To Read the Full Story
Bing West — A combat Marine and former assistant secretary of defense, Mr. West embedded over many years with our troops across Afghanistan and has written four books about the war. His most recent is The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War.

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