A U.S. Marine who is an embedded trainer with the Afghan National Army discusses the negative effects that an open debate on troop levels and strategy in Afghanistan can have on the effort there. The personal views expressed here do not reflect the views of the U.S. military.
Read more about his experience overseas in his blog, Embedded in Afghanistan.
The wait continues for the president’s decision on General McChrystal’s recommendation. The unfortunate aspect of all of this business is that the debate is taking place in the public eye. While having a public debate on the efficacy of sending more troops certainly satisfies the exigencies of American politics, it’s most certainly not beneficial to the war effort as a whole. I say this because if the decision is made to not send more troops, or even not send as many as asked for the by the general, we will be perceived by the Afghan government, people, and security forces as abandoning them and losing our will to fight the insurgents. I can confirm that the ANA leaders I habitually talked with were always worried about our ability to stick things out and did not want to see us go anywhere until the country had progressed significantly.
Perception is an incredibly important part of any counter-insurgency, as winning the support of the people should ultimately lead to victory. I can confirm that many of the people of Afghanistan don’t really care who wins this war, just so long as someone wins it, and they can live a semblance of a normal life…i.e. the people will support the side that appears to be on the path to victory.
For these reasons, any action leading to the perception of weakness or lack of commitment on our part needs to be scrupulously avoided. It would have been better to avoid all of this public debate on the issue…unless the request is granted of course, in which case we may take some small benefit from all of this publicizing of our intentions on the matter.
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