23 July 2009

Exum's back. Back again. Exum's back. Tell a friend...

Not only am I back in Iraq, but Andrew Exum is back at his post at Abu Muqawama (in its new home at the Center for a New American Security).

Granted, I was really enjoying Ex's guest bloggers--they have as much astute commentary mixed with smart-allecky remarks as Exum does--but it's good to see that Exum is reporting back to us, after just having participated in a comprehensive Afghanistan strategy review with General Stanley McChrystal.

Ex reports at Abu Muqawama. This is somthing that we've covered before (indeed, Exum's boss at CNAS, John Nagl, agrees), but it bears repeating.

Winning in Afghanistan will be really, really difficult. I was and am still haunted by one of the last paragraphs in David B. Edwards' majesterial Heroes of the Age:

Afghanistan's central problem [is] Afghanistan itself, specifically certain profound moral contradictions that have inhibited this country from forging a coherent civil society. These contradictions are deeply rooted in Afghan culture, but they have come to the fore in the last one hundred years, since the advent of the nation-state, the laying down of permanent borders, and the attempt to establish an extensive state bureaucracy and to invest that bureaucracy with novel forms of authority and control.

Ooph. With that paragraph in mind I set about examining ISAF operations and strategy, which will largely succeed or fail based on the degree to which the institutions of the Afghan state are capable of defeating this insurgency. To say we are facing an uphill struggle in Afghanistan is an understatement. But as a famous commander once said, hard is not hopeless.

Again, it also bears repeating that the Afghanistan campaign can not succeed unless counterinsurgency and counterterror efforts in Pakistan succeed as well. Simply denying a safe haven for al Qaeda in Afghanistan without improving the FATA region of Pakistan (where many of their leaders are suspected of being located) will do little to disrupt their network.

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