The War In Afghanistan Is Lost


James Joyner gives up:

Following the murder of six NATO troops in yet another "green on blue" attack in which Afghan soldiers supposedly fighting on our side killed NATO troops, the coalition has all but ended combined operations with Afghan army and police forces at the tactical level, requiring general officer approval for exceptions.

While spokesmen insisted that "we're not walking away" from the training and advisory mission that is the ostensible reason for continued Western presence in Afghanistan eleven years into the fight there, that statement rings hollow. As American Security Project Central and South Asia specialist Joshua Foust puts it, "The training mission is the foundation of the current strategy. Without that mission, the strategy collapses. The war is adrift, and it's hard to see how anyone can avoid a complete disaster at this point."

Ackerman sees serious ramifications far beyond Afghanistan's borders:

[It is] bad enough for the Afghanistan war, since Obama administration’s entire strategy to wind down the war depends on preparing Afghan soldiers and police to take over. But it’s got implications for the other wars the U.S. is fighting — in Yemen, and in East Africa.

Those wars are known colloquially as “shadow wars,” for a few reasons. Not only are they undeclared wars, they depend on concealing the U.S. role in them. One method of concealment is to use stealthy forces like elite commandos or tools that require a small logistical footprint, like drones. Another method is to use proxy forces to wage them. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. is training the local forces to fight al-Qaida in its stead, and they come bearing cash and weapons.

Now imagine yourself as a Yemeni insurgent. You’ve seen the government forces reclaim territory from you. So perhaps instead of fighting them, a smarter strategy is to join them — to go through training, in preparation for the moment when, perhaps, you can get close enough to the Americans to open fire or detonate a bomb.

(Photo: A man (R) looks at a victim (L) lying on the ground outside a petrol station at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on September 18, 2012. A suicide bomber blew himself up alongside a minivan carrying foreigners on a major highway leading to the international airport in the Afghan capital, police said, killing at least 10 people, including nine foreigners. By Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)