New York Times Magazine’s Dexter Filkins has an extensive profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which is well worth reading in its entirety. A passage in particular drew my attention.
I asked General Flynn to imagine the future here. “We are going to go in and ask for some resources,” he told me. “If those resources are brought to bear in a timely manner, I believe that it’s probably going to take us three years to really turn the insurgency to the point where it’s waning instead of waxing. To do that we have to fix the Afghan security forces, we have to build their capacity and capability, and we have to absolutely culturally change the way they operate. And then I think beyond those three years, we are looking at another two years when the government of Afghanistan and the security forces of Afghanistan begin to take a lot more personal responsibility. The challenge to us is: What can we do in 12 months? What should we expect? If people’s expectations are that we are going to have the south turned around, for instance, it’s not going to happen.”
I haven’t got a clue if that’s the right approach. But it will mean that it will take another five years for the U.S. to figure out how to stanch the bleeding caused by the insurgency and improve Afghan performance, which will make the Afghanistan war an inconclusive conflict after 14 years.
For a good perspective on the complexity of the situation on the ground Rory Stewart’s appearance at Bill Moyers’ Journal a couple of weeks ago is a must see. Rory Stewart served in the British military and foreign service, walked alone across Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and is now director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.