Afghanistan: America's Willful Deception
The battlefield is as fluid as diplomatic efforts to shape the outcome are convoluted. While diplomacy during peacetime can be described as the efforts between two national representatives to overcome obstacles to a good, healthy, and mutually productive relationship, diplomacy during hostilities cannot. "Diplomatic efforts" during an ongoing conflict are at best an oxymoron. The failure of two parties to work out problems with one another is what leads to war, and if war is the ultimate outcome of a failure of diplomacy, then it stands to reason that the successful outcome of the war can be defined only when one warring nation capitulates to the battlefield prowess of the other.
Our current struggles in Afghanistan have been defined and redefined so many times that it is little wonder that civilian support here in the United States for the effort has waned. What is truly amazing is that the level of morale in the ranks of our war-fighting community has remained as high as it has. High morale is not, however, an accurate indicator of how our military views our successes on this battlefield, especially at this point in history. The reason it does not is because this is one of the only times in our history when a draft has not been used to maintain numbers in the ranks. Those who have served both in Iraq and Afghanistan have done so willingly, and their overall perception of time served is generally more positive than that of conscripts.
Americans have grown accustomed to hearing reports emanating from government officials that do not line up with reports coming in from the battlefield through media outlets and from other sources with boots on the ground. Every piece of information delivered to the American public flows through a government filter to insure consistency with the narrative. In addition, the administration's proxy, the Pentagon, has decided that elements of certain kinds of information should be sequestered to insure that the state narrative continues untarnished by pesky details.
Even the lexicon has morphed. While success on the battlefield has historically been defined as victory, even the word "battlefield" has been carefully expunged from the public dialogue. Success has been co-opted by "compromise" and victory remanded to the dustbin of unacceptable words and phrases. Enemy prisoners of war (EPW) are now future leaders in the new coalition government envisioned by the luminaries in D.C. General grade officers have been carefully selected for their willingness to capture the vision and then translate it into conduct on the battlefield that reflects the intent of their commander in chief.
The American population have been exposed to military jargon they don't understand as well as historically incorrect details about Afghan society and Islam, and they have been force-fed these carefully manicured stories of successful encounters with Afghan society for at least eight years. I say eight years because it took time for the government to begin to transit from high-tempo combat to a low kinetic, COIN-centric operational philosophy. This slow slide into the insane world of peace keeping operations took time. The move to COIN fantasy began to take root at precisely the same rate as our moral outrage and desire for retribution for the acts perpetrated against us on September 11, 2001 began to fade. One of the great problems with COIN operations is that their historical success rate is abysmal. In fact, there has ever been only one successful attempt, and Afghanistan isn't it. And just to keep the record straight, Iraq wasn't it, either!
If things are going so very well for us in Afghanistan right now, then reporting should reflect that, but there are very few stories to corroborate what we are being told. In the past two weeks alone, we have seen more evidence of the growing trend of Afghan nationals turning their weapons on American and NATO/ISAF forces. Even as stories like these continue to roll in, we have had further confirmation of an ongoing effort by U.S. representatives to reconcile with the Taliban and to release battle-hardened Taliban fighters back to Afghan society. While we have chosen to abandon the battlefield in a quest for a magic potion to make the Taliban like us, they, are doing their level best to "explain" to us that they have no interest in peace, an example of which is the killing an Afghan "peace negotiator." They are also exploiting our weakness on the battlefield due to our apparent unwillingness to bring the fight to them!
Of course, many questions are raised by all of this, but none is as important as this one: why did we ever let this government convince us that rebuilding Afghanistan was somehow better for the United States? This question is important simply because there are those of us who are serving in that part of the world who have been led to believe they are there for the security of the United States. Regardless of the apparent inanity of the mission, the overwhelming evidence of IED placement, VBIED traffic, the obvious lack of measurable support from the local population, and the incessant stories of moral and ethical failure in the Kabul government, these war fighters press on. The government that has compelled them to serve in a hostile environment owes them at least the ability to defend themselves when fired upon. The ROE, however, denies them use of the basic tools of the trade: artillery, close air support, use of organic weapons systems like the 60mm mortar, and even small arms fire if their proximity to civilians cannot absolutely guarantee safety for the civilians.
As the combat mission begins to morph into one of training and support, logic would dictate that under normal conditions, the environment will become more dangerous for our war-fighting community. But the conditions in Afghanistan are hardly normal, and no matter how much the general grade officers and their counterparts in D.C. want Afghanistan and Afghans to reflect their vision for them, it isn't going to happen. One thing is certain: as the number of service members in Afghanistan is drawn down, the real threat to our war fighter community will grow exponentially. The ROE will grow incredibly tighter, for that is another expectation within the COIN paradigm; as the operation ages, so grows the support from the civilian population for decreasing the need for armed force.
Does anyone want to bargain his life or those of his loved ones on that premise, in this part of the world? Maybe the president or our silent congressional representatives should stand in the gap and give our war fighters a break.
The truth is, in spite of the narrative, the actual evidence suggests that things in Afghanistan are turning in favor of the Taliban. The danger to our forces will not only continue, but will grow in intensity as more and more control of the battle space is handed to the Taliban. And this giving over of control is a direct consequence of our having chosen not to hold the Taliban accountable on the battlefield -- a battlefield created by a failure on the part of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other like-minded Islamic cells to choose peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world. It is also a complete failure of the remainder of the so-called peaceful Muslim ummah to denounce the violence perpetrated by these groups.
Those in the highest levels of governance in this country and appointed to highest echelons of authority in the DOD have willingly rendered their consciences and their minds incapable of considering the threat, the motivation, and the determination of this enemy, and the proper response to the threat. Instead, they have done what too many men in this age have done. They have been seduced by a lie that allows their weakened character to take the less painful road rather than the road that would have led to victory.
And in so doing, they have purposefully deceived a nation and a nation's most valuable asset: its war-fighting community.