Our Man “91” on the ISAF staff in Kabul just sent me a note.
Things are going reasonably well here (At HQ I mean). A few days ago, I gave a brief to the NATO Military Committee. They are the senior national military advisors to NATO. Mostly two and three stars. I talked about the future of the PRTs, but the most interesting comment came from the J2. I can’t get in to everything that he said, but the first comment he made was regarding the status of the war. As to who is winning and/or losing, he said that the insurgents are not winning. Someone in the Pentagon asked me the same question a few weeks ago. In my opinion, we are not losing, but to evaluate who is winning or losing is one of thethings that makes a counter-insurgency so difficult to gauge. There is no front line to track, so how do you decide if you’re winning? We are killing the enemy by the hundreds when they openly engage us, but we can not be in every village in Afghanistan. So, what happens at night when we are not there? The part time Taliban come out and do their evil and we are seen to be unable to stop that kind of activity. Some places are doing very well – Bamian and Panjshir provinces for example. But there are a lot more that are not. Almost all of RC South and a lot of RC East.
On a positive note, Germany has agreed to extend their mission in Afghanistan. In an interview I did with a group of German reporters [91 is fluent in German] a few weeks ago, they asked if I thought that the German forces should be in southern Afghanistan. While additional forces could do nothing but help,especially in the South, if the Germans leave northern Afghanistan, who will take their place? We, the US, do not have enough forces to takeover the mission in northern Afghanistan, and I would be stunned if anyone else in ISAF was willing to deploy an additional 3000 people to Afghanistan… Even more importantly than the tactical placement of the troops is the strategic impact the German extention will have on the alliance. There are more than a few countries who would leave Afghanistan in a heartbeat if they could come up with a reason. A major coalition partner like Germany withdrawing their forces would provide just such a reason. So, the German decision to stay will hopefully influence the other members of ISAF to stay as well. If Germany, with a population that is ever more opposed to involvement in Afghanistan will stay, then why shouldn’t everyone else?
Why not, indeed? I’ve been pretty hard on the allies that look like they’re starting to weasel, but let’s be honest. The Germans rucked up on this one. We should all be very very pleased and relieved.
To our NATO allies I say, stay on target. Remember what Margaret Thatcher told President Bush in 91– THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GO WOBBLY.
And good work, 91. Keep your head down, and keep the updates coming.