Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Afghanistan quagmire watch

If you've been reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's meticulously reported pieces from Afghanistan documenting on-the-ground efforts by the U.S. military to implement its counterinsurgency strategy you get to a point where they start to sound very familiar. Not because the reporting isn't fantastic, but because the larger elements of the story, no matter how much the individual characters change, remain static: Pakistan's approach to the militants on its side of the border remains selective, and the Afghan government is a flawed partner at best. Counterinsurgency requires a legitimate government to protect and the United States doesn't have one now any more than it did when the strategy was announced. If a car doesn't have a working engine, you can put as many fancy sets of rims on it as you want, but it's not going to move unless you push it yourself. Right now, it looks to me like that's all the United States is doing.

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