Winning in Afghanistan

Another top NATO general is going on the record about our success in Afghanistan, though you are unlikely to hear about such things from the mainstream media that prefer a narrative of failure.

Last week I reported that comments from Army Gen. Dan McNeill, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan went nearly unreported in the US media.  

The General claimed that the rise in violence in Afghanistan was not an indication of Taliban resurgence but of increasing NATO aggressiveness. In short, that we are winning, albeit there are challenges ahead. There is no need to detail the challenges here because the liberal media works overtime to do that anyway.

This week, Gen. Michel Gauthier, who is commander of all Canadian forces overseas, spoke out as detailed in this excellent piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail,  by Graeme Smith. The General said that where his forces are concentrated, in the populated areas in and around Kandahar, there is no question that they are winning.

Graeme Smith writes:

The assertion that Canadian forces have created a bright spot amid the darkening security picture in southern Afghanistan represents the military's first detailed response to several academic reports in recent months that have described NATO as losing the war.

For a second time in as many weeks a senior commander came out and said that there is a misperception about what the situation is in Afghanistan. General Gauthier speaks directly to it:

Along with looking at the level of violence, Gen. Gauthier also suggested that his troops have carved out a foothold for reconstruction and development in Kandahar. But a journalist pointed out that many aid agencies have withdrawn their non-essential staff from Kandahar in recent weeks, fearing a rise in Taliban activity.

"Right," the commander replied. "And I suppose we need to find a way to deal with the perception issue, because it's all about perception."

In fact, the General says violence in the Kandahar zone decreased last year, although Canadian forces have one of the most difficult missions in Afghanistan. While there is still fighting, and most likely will be for some time, things are improving in Afghanistan despite the impression created by think tank studies and most media reporting. This "resurgent Taliban" template is not only inaccurate but it is hurting the support for the mission and worsening the situation by driving aid organisations away from people who badly need the help.

Another point of interest is that the General notes that some police stations were overrun last year but quickly retaken. I have observed that when a position in Afghanistan gets overrun it generates an avalanche of media reports. Usually, when NATO forces retake the site within days it generates almost no press. This creates the impression of a Taliban simply gobbling up Afghanistan when the fact is they are losing ground.

Such biased media reporting is not only hurting US national security, it is hurting the innocents in Afghanistan. It is time for President Bush to come out of hiding and take the case directly to the American people. The President must lead by letting his senior military officials speak to the people directly to dispel this "losing in Afghanistan" media myth.

General Petraeus did a phenomenal job of convincing Americans that the real situation in Iraq was not being told by the media. We need another Petraeus moment to build lagging support for Afghanistan.