March 14, 2011


Bing West, The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan (New York: Random House, 2011) ("In early 2010, Battalion 1-32 turned over their battlespace and returned to the States. The battalion had followed the key counterinsurgency principles. Lt. Col. O'Donnell and Sgt. Maj. Carabello had set the example, traveling constantly, talking to everyone, working hand in hand with the officials. The local police were standoffish, but the askars and Border Police willingly worked with the Americans, Captains like Mike Harrison has spent endless hours sipping tea in shras, supervising millions of dollars in projects, and supporting local officials At the end of his second tour, he wasn't sure what had been accomplished. 'If I had it to do over again,' Harrison said, 'I'd work to uncover the secret agents. We never broke the shadow government. Some people were on our side, and some weren't. Everyone liked our money, but that didn't change attitudes'." Id. at 127. "Our mistake in Afghanistan was to do the work of others for ten years, expecting reciprocity across a cultural and religious divide. Given the huge size of the country, the tribal traditions, and the vast sanctuary of Pakistan, protecting the Pashtun population and expecting then to reject the Taliban in favor of the Kabul government was a strategy too opened-ended. The U.S. military must hand off nation building to the State Department and deemphasize population protection. It is self-defeating to cling to a theory that has enfeebled our warrior ethos and not led to victory. It is time to transition to an advisor corps that can invigorate the Afghan security forces and prevent an Islamist takeover." "We have fought the wrong war with the wrong strategy. Our troops are not a Peace Corps; they are fighters. Let them fight, and let the Taliban fear." Id. at 254.).