This story from the Washington Post commits a rather egregious bit of journalistic malpractice--burying the lede. In this case, what should have been the focus of the entire story is found on the fourth page of the website version of this article. That it carries the byline of Bob Woodward should shock no one--he's been given the unenviable task of officially leaking what it is the military really thinks.
The focus of the story, to be fair, was the non-surprising development that arrived with a sober assessment by General Stanley McChrystal--he wants more troops or the mission will fail. Who hasn't seen that coming? How is that news?
Overall, McChrystal provides this conclusion about the enemy: "The insurgents control or contest a significant portion of the country, although it is difficult to assess precisely how much due to a lack of ISAF presence. . . . "
The insurgents make money from the production and sale of opium and other narcotics, but the assessment says that "eliminating insurgent access to narco-profits -- even if possible, and while disruptive -- would not destroy their ability to operate so long as other funding sources remained intact."
While the insurgency is predominantly Afghan, McChrystal writes that it "is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI," which is its intelligence service. Al-Qaeda and other extremist movements "based in Pakistan channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers, and technical assistance into Afghanistan, and offer ideological motivation, training, and financial support."
Just to recap--the Taliban insurgency controls part of Afghanistan, it makes a lot of money from selling opium, we can't stop that, and, oh by the way, Pakistan is their lifeline. Pakistan is their safe haven. Pakistan is where al Qaeda continues to launch efforts to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
This part made the front page, but is buried a little further down than it should be:
The assessment offers an unsparing critique of the failings of the Afghan government, contending that official corruption is as much of a threat as the insurgency to the mission of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the U.S.-led NATO coalition is widely known.
"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and ISAF's own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government," McChrystal says.
It really is Vietnam all over again. The Viet Cong maintained control of the countryside, made money from drugs, and found safe haven in neighboring countries. For political reasons, the U.S. had to refrain from doing everything that it could to "win" the war, and was pilloried for bombing Cambodia. The government was so corrupt, it had no legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
And, oh by the way, your loved ones fighting this war? Forget about their lives. The countless millions spent to find them vehicles to keep them safe are the problem, you see:
The general says his command is "not adequately executing the basics" of counterinsurgency by putting the Afghan people first. "ISAF personnel must be seen as guests of the Afghan people and their government, not an occupying army," he writes. "Key personnel in ISAF must receive training in local languages."
He also says that coalition forces will change their operational culture, in part by spending "as little time as possible in armored vehicles or behind the walls of forward operating bases." Strengthening Afghans' sense of security will require troops to take greater risks, but the coalition "cannot succeed if it is unwilling to share risk, at least equally, with the people."
That's all well and good. Here's the problem, however. In order to get more linguists, the military needs more of those really smart but weird kids who have the aptitude to learn foreign languages. Unfortunately, smart and weird means that they may have some ambiguous sexual preferences and may engage in some behavior that is undesirable for a staid, stuffy military. They need to fix that. Then they have to explain to the American people why their loved ones are being asked to get out of the vehicles we've spent years waiting for so that they can be blown to pieces by an enemy that will exploit each and every one of their weaknesses.
So, just to recap--the Taliban are being supported out of Pakistan, they get their money from selling drugs, there's nothing we can do about it, the Afghan government is corrupt, and we need more troops. And, when we send those troops to Afghanistan, we're going to make them walk around in the open so that they can share the risks of the Afghan people and die faster.
If George W. Bush were President, liberals would be screaming right now. Instead, the Democrat Party has bought off the left, promising millions to them to shut their mouths about this insanity. And I'm a goddamned racist because I think President Obama is making a huge mistake here. Welcome to American political discourse, Fall 2009. Get your swag bag of goodies on your way out the door.
So much for running to the right of Senator McCain.