The U.S. War in Afghanistan (Essay)

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At the time of my writing, the NATO war in Afghanistan has just become the longest war in U.S. history, a status it seems likely to retain for some time. It has been, and remains, a very strange war, all the stranger now that General Stanley McChrystal has been fired as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan following the lamest Douglas MacArthur impression on record. He has been replaced by General David Petraeus, the father and executor of the doctrine that lay behind the eventual U.S. military success in Iraq, a version of which is now being applied in Afghanistan. The notion that his appointment will lead to substantial changes in the Afghan mission is hence overblown, especially as up until a week ago he was the one telling…show more content…
However, much to the surprise of many, the Taliban proved highly resilient. Between 2001 and 2006 they were largely quiescent, nourishing their movement across the border in Pakistan, recruiting, training, and absorbing an influx of insurgents who fled Iraq after the surge. Then they started coming back, and in force. They wanted to conquer Afghanistan again, and it was clear that the nascent Afghan security forces and the European mission in Kabul wasn't up to the task of stopping them. Nor were the small number of U.S. troops who were still in the country. So, belatedly, the Bush administration began the task of dispatching more troops, and ISAF extended its mission to cover the whole country, subsuming the U.S. forces. This was the start of a serious attempt to come up with a strategy for the future of Afghanistan and to combat the Taliban. * * * The exact content of this strategy depended heavily on what the new president did when he assumed office in 2009. Obama eventually decided to adopt a counterinsurgency strategy similar to the one carried out in Iraq. Under this strategy, the problem of Afghan internal security would be Americanized for as long as it took to build up an Afghan government that could function on its own and defend itself. Meanwhile, a surge of U.S. and other forces would attack the Taliban over a period of years, and deny them their most prized territory - particularly Kandahar,
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