On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.
Today, the U.S. Marines kicked off a new push against bad guys in Afghanistan's fertile and poppy-rich southern province. Per the AP: Gen. David Petraeus says the Marine Corps offensive launched Friday in southern Afghanistan is part of preparations for the arrival of 30,000 new U.S. reinforcements. Petraeus told The Associated Press that the military has been working for months to extend what he called "the envelope of security" around key towns in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.... U.S.
Kevin Drum thinks people, including myself, are being too hard on the Obama team when it comes to AfPak policymaking: If [Rajiv] Chandrasekar's account is correct, the fault isn't really with the Obama administration at all. It's with the military: McKiernan was on board with the counterinsurgency strategy but didn't indicate that he needed more troops to implement it.... Later, of course, McKiernan was pushed out and a new commander took a fresh look at what resources were needed. But that hardly reflects badly on Obama, and it doesn't really sound like anyone screwed up back in March. Lo
Camp Julien is surrounded by reminders of Afghanistan’s past. The coalition military base--which sits in the hills south of Kabul, just high enough to rise above the thick cloud of smog that perpetually blankets the city--is flanked by two European-style palaces built in the 1920s by the modernizing King Amanullah. Home to Soviet troops and mujahedin during the past decades of war, the now-crumbling palaces are littered with bullet holes and decorated with graffiti in multiple languages.
Rory Stewart, the Scotsman who walked across Afghanistan (literally) and wrote a book about it has emerged of late as a cautionary voice warning that the West simply can't tame or transform that impoverished tribal nation. Today Stewart will make that case for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the first of two hearings on the Obama administration's Afghanisatan policy. (Video link is here.) Testifying on the other side, in favor of a major U.S.