The General is talking about military progress in our latest offensive west of Kandahar. This is very important and good news but unfortunately, only tells half the story. Political progress by the Afghan government has, if anything, regressed. Massive fraud in recent elections, the blocking of investigations into corruption, and now the negotiations with "moderate" elements of the Taliban point to our relative weakness in making Afghanistan into something resembling a real country with a functioning government.
Nevertheless, first things first; and that means progress in seeing to the security of the country:
The progress in Kandahar City's western fringe is shaping up to be an important part of the case Petraeus plans to make, during crucial assessments of the mission this fall by NATO and the White House, that international and Afghan forces have regained the momentum after years of losing ground to the Taliban.
The governor of Kandahar province, Tooryalai Wesa, drove through Zhari and Panjwai on Thursday to meet with 350 village elders, a trip that would have been too dangerous to make last month.
Petraeus and his subordinate commanders have been reluctant to trumpet their efforts in Kandahar out of concern that early claims of success could prove embarrassing if insurgents find a way to regroup and attack coalition forces, as some U.S. Marine officers learned during the large assault earlier this year in the Marja district of neighboring Helmand province. Military officials have said many insurgent fighters might have slipped out of Zhari and Panjwai as the allied operation intensified. But they say the troops intend to take advantage of the diminished Taliban presence to build up the capacity of the Afghan government and security forces, with the hope they will be able to fend off any insurgent counteroffensive.
So far, our record of training the Afghan army has been spotty, with some successes and some failures. But if you recall the efforts in Iraq, such was the case there and there eventually emerged a strong core of officers and men who formed the basis for a more competent army we see in that country today.
That's probably about the best we can hope for in Afghanistan as our efforts continue.