Analysis: Gen. Nicholson says US strategy in Afghanistan ‘is working,’ despite the facts

In a press briefing yesterday that seemed detached from the reality on the ground in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support and US Forces Afghanistan said the “the strategy is working” and “advancing us towards reconciliation” with the Taliban.

Nicholson briefed Pentagon reporters remotely from Afghanistan. The call was abruptly cut off, presumably due to technical difficulties, as the Pentagon press corps grilled Nicholson on the efficacy of the Afghan strategy.

In his opening statement, Nicholson claimed there was “progress on the peace process” with the Taliban. Yet again, he mischaracterized statements by the Taliban to claim it is willing to negotiate in good faith to end the conflict.

Nicholson described the Taliban’s assaults on Farah and Ghazni cities as a failure, and never addresses the underlying causes of each attack – the Taliban’s ability to control areas outside the cities. He takes credit for the Taliban’s rout of the Islamic State’s forces in Jawzjan. He claims there has been progress in convincing Pakistan to end its support of the Taliban. And he uses Taliban body counts as a measure of success, and then says enemy casualties are not a proper metric.

“The strategy is working,” because reconciliation

Nicholson, in response to a question about the current Afghan strategy, said that it “is working.” In a cursory reading of the press briefing, it is clear Nicholson hinges his opinion that the strategy is working because, as he claims, it is “advancing us towards reconciliation.”

“So — so I think we’re — we’re seeing the strategy is fundamentally working and advancing us towards reconciliation, even though it may not be playing out the way that we anticipated,” Nicholson said.

“I believe the South Asia Strategy is the right approach. And now we see that approach delivering progress on reconciliation that we had not seen previously. And I think that was because we clearly communicated to the enemy they could not wait us out,” he continued.

The US strategy hinges on demonstrating a longterm commitment to Afghanistan, defeating the Taliban militarily, and forcing it to the negotiating table. Yet the Taliban has been anything but defeated militarily; Taliban controlled and contested territory remains unchanged since the US changed its strategy, and the Taliban has been dealing Afghan forces major blows on the battlefield, despite Nicholson’s Pollyannish assessment of the current fight. Failing to defeat the Taliban, the US government has signaled to the Taliban that it is desperate for a negotiated settlement and wants to end the Afghan war.

Nicholson claimed that the reconciliation process is working and is based on two things: letters released by the Taliban’s leader in Feb. and Aug that he says lays out a path to peace; and a short, uncoordinated ceasefire at the end of June.

“We’ve also seen a clear progression in the Taliban’s public statements, from their 14 February letter to the American people to the recent Eid al-Adha message, where Emir Hibatullah acknowledged for the first time that negotiations will, quote, ‘ensure an end to the war,’ end quote.”

Astonishingly, Nicholson described the Feb. 14 letter as one of two “peace offers,” when it is anything but. The other peace offer was by Afghan president Arshaf Ghani, which the Taliban has flatly ignored.

Nicholson’s reading of the two letters is wrong. In the first letter, the Taliban said the only acceptable outcome in Afghanistan is for the US to quit so it can restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of its government. In the second letter, from last week, Mullah Habaitullah again demanded the withdrawal of American forces and criticized religious gatherings for ruling that the conflict is a civil war between Afghans. In both letters, the Taliban says it will negotiate only with the US, and not the Afghan government, and only to get US and foreign troops out of the country. Additionally, the Taliban branded the Afghan government as corrupt and illegitimate, said it will not negotiate peace or share power with it, and that the return of the Islamic Emirate is the only acceptable outcome. [See LWJ reports, Taliban still intent on ruling Afghanistan after ‘peaceful’ message to US, Taliban leader demands US withdraw from Afghanistan, blasts government as ‘corrupt regime’, Analysis: Taliban will halt attacks on Afghan government for 3 days, and Analysis: A misbegotten ‘ceasefire’ in Afghanistan.]

Nicholson also claimed the first ceasefire, an overlapping and uncoordinated 3 day long halt in fighting at the end of June, was unprecedented in the 17 years of war in Afghanistan. Yet the Taliban did not respond to the Afghan government’s offer to extend it. Instead, the Taliban ramped up its attacks on Afghan forces, invaded Ghazni City, and overran multiple district centers and military bases. The Taliban has not responded to the current offer of a ceasefire.

Taliban “failed” in Farah and Ghazni cities, and body counts

In perhaps one of the most tone-deaf interpretations of the Taliban’s operations, Nicholson claimed that the Taliban incursions into and the brief seizure of the provincial capitals of Farah and Ghazni cites this year proves the group has “failed.”

“Now, militarily speaking, they made two attempts this year to seize provincial capitals. They both have failed,” Nicholson remarked.

“The Taliban are fighting in order to increase their leverage in the negotiation and to maintain their cohesion,” he then claimed

This is a remarkable misreading of insurgency warfare. First, the Taliban clearly never intended to hold either city for an extended period of time; it did not commit a large enough force to do so. The Taliban sent a message to the Afghan people: your government is weak and cannot defend you. In addition to demonstrating the government’s weakness, the Taliban instilled fear on Afghans living in areas under government control, and benefited from looting military and police bases and outposts.

Second, there is zero evidence that the Taliban attacked either city “to increase their leverage in the negotiations.” The Taliban, in a display of strength, has been launching large scale assaults on cities since 2015.

Nicholson then used body counts to show that the Taliban lost during its assault on Ghazni City, which ended less than two weeks ago.

“But ultimately, they were driven out of the city, losing more fighters in the end than the ANDSF,” he stated. Later, he claimed “they [the Taliban] were driven out [of Ghazni] with higher casualties than they inflicted.”

Oddly, Nicholson, perhaps realizing that he was making an argument that enemy casualties equal success, an argument that US generals wrongly made in Vietnam, he backtracked.

“Taliban casualties are high and not — and we don’t talk about casualties, because that’s — that’s not a — that’s not a proper metric, I think, given our past history,” he said.

Yet, Resolute Support, which Nicholson commands, has indeed used body counts as a metric of success. At the end of July, Resolute Support used this metric to claim the Afghan military is having success against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State since the end of the Eid ceasefire. The claim that 1,700 insurgents were killed during a three week period was based on the Afghan military, which is notorious for inflating enemy casualties. [See LWJ report, NATO command touts body count of ‘Taliban irreconcilables’.]

Additionally, Nicholson discounted the Taliban’s mastery of rural areas and even wrongly claimed that attacks in these areas “fail.”

“So, the other attacks that you referred to are done in more remote areas. And what we see is in the majority of those cases, those attacks fail. Where those attacks are successful in seizing a district center, typically the district centers are retaken. There have been a few that have fallen to the Taliban this year,” he stated.

“But the — the point is they — can they conduct attacks? Yes. Can they hold what they take? No.”

Except, the Taliban is able to hold ground, and routinely is successful in its operations in rural areas. The Taliban controls at least 48 of Afghanistan 407 districts and contests another 197, according to a study by FDD’s Long War Journal. Resolute Support claims the Taliban controls around 11 districts, but these numbers are unreliable. Recently, in Ghazni province, The New York Times discovered that the districts centers in five districts under Taliban control were moved to Ghazni City in order to hide the fact that they were indeed Taliban controlled. [See LWJ report, Resolute Support obscures status of 7 Ghazni districts as 3 more fall to Taliban.]

Nicholson later admits that the Taliban controls a significant portion of the Afghan population. To do this, the Taliban must control territory. Nicholson admits this number hasn’t changed since the Afghan strategy was launched last year.

“There has not been a significant change one way or the other with respect to population control,” he said.

Nicholson claims credit for defeat of Islamic State in Jawzjan, which was a Taliban victory

Nicholson’s positions on the so-called peace process and the Taliban’s current offensive is troubling. His view on the recent defeat of the Islamic State in Jawzjan province is delusional.

At the end of July, the Taliban assaulted the Islamic State Khorasan province’s stronghold in the province of Jawzjan. The Taliban completely routed the Islamic State, killing more than 200 fighters and capturing scores more. The remaining Islamic State fighters, more than 250 of them, then surrendered to the Afghan government.

Astonishingly, Nicholson cast this as a victory for the Afghan government.

“I want to highlight a recent success since we last talked, when over 250 ISIS-K fighters and their family members surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Jowzjan, which eliminated one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,” Nicholson claimed.

Nicholson should be concerned that the Taliban was able to mass its forces in Jawzjan and accomplish what the Afghan security forces could not do. Instead, he credited the Afghan security forces with a victory it did not earn.

In fact, the Afghan government’s treatment of the Islamic State fighters has enraged many Afghans, including members of the military. The Islamic State fighters were evacuated using helicopters, while Afghan soldiers besieged at bases could not receive critical resupply. Government officials spoke of amnesty for fighters who brutally murdered, raped, and enslaved civilians in Jawzjan.

Pakistan: “what we’re seeing is an improvement.” Or not

In yet another remarkable and disjointed statement, Nicholson said that he has seen “an improvement” in Pakistan’s behavior towards Pakistan.

“But we are encouraged that what we’re seeing is an improvement in — in some levels between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this has been a result of President Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan with the APAPPS, the — the — the improving — not — not where we’d like to see it be, but improving coordination between the militaries. And again, the — the strong demand of the Afghan people for peace,” Nicholson said in a response to a question about Pakistan’s role in the insurgency.

But then Nicholson backtracked and said that Pakistan is still supporting the Taliban.

“The Taliban enjoy freedom — freedom of action there. They — they occasionally come over from there, casualties are taken back there. These are things we are concerned about,” he said.

Taliban’s support for the Taliban and other jihadist groups is well documented. While President Trump talked tough on Pakistan, the US government, other than turing off the spigot of military aid, has done little to force Pakistan to change its behavior.

A troubling assessment

Nicholson’s briefing paints a picture of Afghanistan that does not comport with the facts on the ground. He does not seem to have a grasp on the state of the fight, and his reading of the political situation and negotiations with the Taliban is incorrect. The press, perhaps sensing that Nicholson was struggling to put the best face on Afghanistan as he prepared to relinquish his command, asked tough questions. The press conference was cut off in what appears to be a technical issue, however it appears there was no attempt to reestablish the link.

Nicholson will be turning his command over to General Austin Miller, who during his senate testimony, refused to define the Taliban as an enemy of America. It remains to be seen if Miller, like all of the generals who have preceded him, will continue to provide rosy assessments of Afghanistan as the country continues to slide into anarchy.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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50 Comments

  • Sid Finster says:

    Comedy gold.

    I am re-reading Mao On Guerilla Warfare, for the man had some practical experience whereof he spoke.

  • Nick Mastrovito says:

    Thought LWJ was about COIN- it’s pretty apparent that LWJ knows nothing about COIN.

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Who said LWJ was only about COIN? LWJ monitors our enemies and their strategy, and our performance in fighting them. That said, we know quite a bit about COIN. And we aren’t fighting an effective COIN in Afghanistan. If we were, Nicholson wouldn’t have to give a mendacious press conference like he did yesterday.

    • Passer by says:

      You don’t have the numbers currently to pursue an effective COIN in Afghanistan.

      Currently the US is in a lose – lose situation – stay and invest tens of billions of dollars every year (all this while US debt levels are rising) and still lose ground to the Taliban, or withdraw, which will lead to Taliban take over of the country.

      We all saw how this ends in Vietnam.

      • “..which will lead to Taliban take over of the country.” It would end this senseless war and take out one of the most corrupt governments in the world that we put in power and have kept them in power while most of them (government, police and army) are all involved in one of the biggest opium industries ever. Although the Taliban involvement is only mentioned in the media. Keeping in mind that the Taliban banned opium cultivation just before we took them out as a government. They would do it again with a little help, unlike the past.

        • irebukeu says:

          This is an interesting topic. The Taliban did bring cultivation down to its lowest known levels. The DEA was involved with some funding (some people looking for whatever advantage they may get out of it accuse Bill Clinton of “funding the Taliban” but upon inspection, this DEA activity is what that collapses down too).
          The counter-argument to this “there was a bumper harvest the prior two years and there were plenty of stocks of opium to last. The Taliban it is said was pulling a fast one on the world and they were going to go right back into full scale growing just like the warlords right after they gained acceptability on the world stage. Though I see no evidence or even a basis for such a claim I don’t know what the truth is to this. I have never heard any truthful “get to the bottom of it” analysis of this topic anywhere.
          If the Taliban are negotiated back to power they will probably have given certain assurances to eradicate or at least discourage growing and they will give that meaningless assurance of not allowing international terrorists ( people that would attack us) a sanctuary.

      • CvC says:

        Nor is it clear that, even if we had the numbers, we would be successful. Nor that even if the numbers would make us successful, it is a vital enough national interest to pay the price in blood and treasure.

        Both may be the case, but that is an argument that needs to be made, not assumed. It needs to be made in the open, in the public, so that those who want to weigh-in can and so that the leaders making the decisions are accountable.

  • The Taliban demands to end the war have remained consistent through the years as have our generals’ dumb statements on what is happening. Our troops have to leave and they will not negotiate with the present corrupt Afghan government (one of the most corrupt in the world) that they and much of the local population consider illegitimate as well as corrupt. These Taliban views are shared by much of the local population which has allowed the 17 years of war to continue.

    • James says:

      You say “end the war” Richard. Oh really? What happened when we bailed out prematurely from Iraq? Answer: ISIS stepped in. You will see the same thing happen in Afghanistan if you have your way with it with possibly even more dire consequences. You say “present corrupt Afghan government”; what do you base your analysis on? Reading (and believing) too many of those local media mob retorts? You say “Taliban views are shared by much of the local population”. Well, what do you base that analysis on? Or, is that just your personal opinion on the matter? Can you prove it? Have you ever been there? Do you speak their language(s)? Did you go door-to-door over there to at least try to make an accurate assessment? Do you know anything about their culture except for what you’ve read in your local left-wing media mob retorts?

      • irebukeu says:

        James, do you speak the language? Have you gone door to door? You expect it of Him but do you have these skills and experiences? Just because he doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean he cant have a valid opinion. If he did know native speech and was a door knocker it still means nothing. Would proof still be needed? Yeah, especially if you still disagreed as you know you would.
        ISIS didn’t step into Iraq when we left James, They were created from an Islamist cadre kept safe in the Kurdish mountains. Powell made Zarqawi famous at the UN. The Root of ISIS is Zarqawi and the US intervention, not Bin Laden. Bin Laden was the Vehicle that bridges Zarqawi’s Tawhid organization to IS. To just conflate everything together serves no purpose to anyone except the enemies of the USA.
        Afghanistan should have been Americas shortest war- the chance to display Sherman’s maxim of ‘hard war’. We could have carped bombed Kandahar after 9-11 and the entire world would have said: “well that’s war”.
        To be clear James, you don’t have to speak the languages to form these opinions about the war. I, as an American-living in Phoenix Arizona (just in case you think I have some Russian connections), am in full agreement with Richard Scott’s post-have never been to Afghanistan and don’t speak the languages. I form my opinions based on history, human nature, current conditions and future expectations. I’m always aware of confirmation bias and how I might be wrong on any ‘fact’, point or opinion.
        If he doesn’t respond to you James, I have. I know just enough to understand I know very little. I don’t want to be wrong any longer than I have to be. Can you help me out, James?

        • James says:

          “James, do you speak the language?” No. “Have you gone door to door?” No. “You expect it of Him but do you have these skills and experiences?” No. But, I do know that there is terribly something wrong with the strategies and expectations in this war effort.

          “Just because he doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean he cant have a valid opinion.” Irebukeu, I never stated that he can’t have a valid opinion.

          “ISIS didn’t step into Iraq when we left James, They were created from an Islamist cadre kept safe in the Kurdish mountains.” Irebukeu, the fact of the matter is that ISIS spread like cancer in the immediate aftermath of our prematurely leaving Iraq.
          We made two major blunders in that area, the first is the one just listed but another big blunder was from our not eliminating the blood-thirsty tyrant butcher a$$ad.

          You and I probably agree, that overall, the Iraq war was a mistake. But, we disagree on how to correct (or compensate) for that mistake.

          “Afghanistan should have been Americas shortest war”. If we end up losing Afghanistan (which I most certainly hope that we don’t), it is my position that we didn’t lose Afghanistan by going into Afghanistan. No, we lost Afghanistan by going into Iraq.

          The problem I see with Afghanistan now is that we’ve got a bunch of losers running the show over there who literally don’t have any kind of a reasonable game plan to change things for the better.

          Irebukeu, you’d better believe that if you and those that agree with your opinion on this matter get their way, that ISIS will step in. Judging from the videos and reports I’ve analyzed here at LWJ and other military media outlets, it looks to me like ISIS has ‘merged’ with the Taliban (or, at least a significant portion of them have). This is only an alliance of short term convenience. This is what I predict, they will show their true colors if the US were to leave. So while the Taliban may be dancing in the streets, it will be short-lived and premature celebration.

          With Afghanistan’s heroine connections and Pakistan’s nukes, the temptation for ISIS to jump into Afghanistan will be far too great for them to resist. I can only hope that someone (or, some people) have made these facts all too clear to Trump.

          • irebukeu says:

            James, We all suspect there is something wrong with the strategies and expectations.
            True James, you never said he couldn’t have a valid opinion, he has one.
            You say we both can agree the Iraq war was a mistake overall. Ok, I’ll agree with that. You then list two major blunders. Not staying long enough and not taking out A$$ad. Those do not jibe well with the war being a mistake. Taking out A$$ad woule have made the war longer, cost 10,000 American lives and would have required a draft in the USA. Here are the two I’ll put forward, Crossing the Kuwaiti border and removing the butcher Saddam. Not only were those huge mistakes, they line up well with the war being a mistake overall.
            To say ISIS spread like cancer after we left is to ignore the fact that they grew under American noses and is to put the cart before the horse. They went there and grew because we went there and invaded. Full stop. If we lose Afghanistan by invading Iraq, Then how could still being in Iraq today have helped anything in Afghanistan? I don’t understand that at all. We created a provisional government in Iraq and had an election that Iran asked all Shia to participate in. They showed up and voted right on time. The Sunnis didn’t participate in large numbers. The Shia government elected wanted us out and we left on time. Iran was ready to reap the benefits and has steadily prepped. Bush signed all the paperwork committing us to leave. Malaki said “don’t let the door hit ya where Allah split ya” and we were gone. The option was Sharia law for US troops or leave Iraq. Obama hauled them out-saved them from the Iraqi police. I think our military leaders know and should know how to break things up with hammers and we should only unleash them on the world when something needs to be broken up with hammers. For fixing things call handymen and local politicians.

        • Haji Mutasefana says:

          I think carpet bombing Kandhar would have been considered a war crime; unbecoming of a decent country.

          • irebukeu says:

            Well, had we gone in fast and hard and right back out again we should have left something to be remembered by. We could have done more damage than Alexander the Great in 1/1000 the time.

          • James says:

            You want to carpet bomb something over there? No need to carpet bomb Kandahar. Just carpet bomb the opium fields (like with napalm or a similar incendiary munition). Of course, it won’t work long term, but it should work for at least a year or two.

          • irebukeu says:

            Well, I should have gone into more detail, please forgive me. I actually had in mind something more like Shermans burning of Atlanta, and the (probably false) stories of the Romans salting the fields of Carthage and moving the city inland from the sea. Alexanders destruction of the agricultural canals. I never meant to suggest the murdering of innocents

  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    The canard that “the Generals always know how to fight the last war” is passé.

    They won’t “know” how to fight the next because they haven’t figured out how to fight this one.

  • Moose says:

    The “South Asia Strategy” is simply Pakistan’s strategy of ceding the tribal areas to the Taliban (they obviously can’t call it the Pakistan Strategy). As long as the Taliban can’t take over major cities like Kabul and Kandahar, Resolute Support thinks the Afghan government can achieve a balance of power with them. This has worked in Pakistan for decades.

    However, this thinking shouldn’t include major cities like Ghazni. RS needs to do more to help the Afghan government deter the Taliban’s larger operations.

  • James Albright says:

    The only way to defeat the Taliban is to disregard the Pakistani border and go after them wherever they are given refuge. If the US stopped the Communists in Laos from supporting the Communists in North Vietnam the US could have fully defeated them. The US is making a similar mistake regarding Pakistan giving refuge to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

    • S R says:

      NATO needs to invade Pakistan.

      • Sid Finster says:

        Because invading Cambodia worked so well during the Vietnam War, and because the American public is just spoiling for more money spent and more pointless casualties!

  • Paxton says:

    Can’t comprehend why USA cares about the armpit of the globe. Nuke ‘em and move on.

  • J. Renfroe says:

    After a decade of occasionally posting comments here, comments under my usual nic are being rejected, almost instantly after clicking Post Comment. What gives?

    Have you installed a “banned” list? If so, would you please post a rational list of reasons?

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Comments are moderated, sometimes it takes me time to get to them due to my work load. I also need to sleep at times.

      • J Renfroe says:

        Thanks for answering. Three successive comments “disappeared” after clicking Submit. There was no “awaiting moderation”, which led me to jump to the “banned” idea. It was obviously something in the software.

        For the record, I formally and humbly retract my “banned” comment.

  • Michael Murray says:

    It’s working!
    Hooray, after 16 years it really, really, really is REALLY working now. What a crock of BS.
    This old Jarhead has been lied to by experts before, and I think the General is full of it. What’s the time line, another 16 years?

  • Murad Badshah says:

    US claims remind me of Vietnam, US is tired, I’ll say exhausted and is looking for some way out but it’s now the Taliban, not US or West, who will decide the fate of Afghan war.
    As the Taliban said in the start “you have the watch but we have the time. ”
    Such a pity for US and West.

  • JOHN BARR says:

    The situation on the ground pretty much reflects the LWJ’s assessment. There appears to be a disconnect between what the policy makers want to believe and what’s actually happening. Too much blinkered thinking which is costing innocent people’s lives. I get the impression policy makers are attempting to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template for peace based on a Northern Ireland style initiative which just isn’t going to work. This isn’t NI or Bosnia. The tribal and sectarian dynamics are much more complex and the religious aspect is either completely ignored or only viewed through a secular focussed prism. Despite these factors, I suspect policy makers will force this through nevertheless, but it will come a high cost. The Taliban are playing the long game and know the international community has lost it’s resolve. They will continue to say one thing and do another and provide the odd scraps of goodwill to desperate policy makers looking for short term wins. So predictable, but so painful to watch.

    JWB from Kabul.

    • S R says:

      The Good Friday Agreement (NI peace deal) may come to an end this year because of Brexit. Northern Ireland could become a part of the Republic of Ireland because of Brexit. I think the only thing that could prevent that from happening is if the Democratic Unionist party agree to northern Ireland remaining in the backstop plan (customs union), but that would be a great humiliation for the UK because that would put a border between NI and GB in the Irish sea.

  • James says:

    Time to ditch ol’ tricky nicky (General Nicholson). It should have been done so long ago. I hear his term is almost up. Good riddance to him.

    In my honest assessment, it is a failure of strategy. The military can only go so far. Militaries aren’t meant to run countries, especially democracies.

    I say it again. Go after the opium trade, CIA. Everything you’d ever need to know about the inner-workings of the Taliban (and then some) will be contained therein. In fact, you will gain significant intel on AQ (Al Qaeda) main by doing so. It all hinges on the opium trade, and how we (or they) possess it. If you are looking for a game-changer to break this stalemate then there it is as plain as day.

  • STEVEN G MORGAN says:

    Well. Well. Well. Finally, Nicholson is being called out. I don’t believe it. I’ve been wondering where the Peter Principle was going to place him. I have been watching to see what his next assignment would be. I hope he goes into retirement but, like Westmoreland, maybe he’ll become the next US Army Chief of Staff. Nicholson is a history buff so that irony shouldn’t be lost on him. Just like Carlotta Gall’s likening Nicholson to John Paul Vann. Thank you Bill Roggio for writing this piece and exposing this intellectually dishonest Washington DC swamp rat (anyone who has done their research knows exactly what I’m saying in that sentence). Nicholson has a lot of blood on his hands and there isn’t enough Dial soap in the commissary to clean it off.

  • BobD says:

    So who are the sources for the LWJ’s real “reality” in Afghanistan? Just trying to understand how a blogger in the States feels he has better grasp of the situation by piecing together open source news articles and Taliban propaganda over the people on the ground.

    • Passer by says:

      Taliban propaganda includes videos, you know.

      People are not brainless. When they see RS saying the Afghan Gov is in control of Ghazni City, and then they see videos of taliban fighters roaming the streets and burning buildings all over the place, who are they going to believe? Not RS, thats for sure.

    • Morag Mac says:

      Because often people on the ground generalize a situation that may not reflect what is actually occurring. Just because something is a certain way in ONE geographic place, at ONE time, does not mean this is the problem or the solution. Output measures are rarely reflective of any programs success. Yet – the last I looked at some of the metrics, they are outputs. They certainly don’t add up to success. Had the Americans listened to the Germans, we’d be far ahead on police training. The U.S. has untrained military advising civilian police. They won’t listen to the experts – the hubris! This war has been a defense contractor’s dream. And that is all it is at this point.

  • Tony says:

    Give me a break dude. How long are we going to continue this BS.

  • O R Serron says:

    Say what you want, but Obama let his soldiers be soldiers. This Trump management from afar is delivering a Vietnam outcome. Syria showed that US military was still adaptable and effective, a true learning force. Now, Trump wants to ignore that the same Saudi Princes that bankrolled ISIS, are attacking tankers in the Red Sea & demonizing Iran. Oil will go up in price, great little ancillary benefit.

    • Bill Roggio says:

      This didn’t happen overnight. It began during the Obama administration. The problem runs deeper than politics, although that is a key part. Our military leadership has learned that saying what their political leaders want to hear gets them promoted. Many recent US military commanders for Afghansitan who gave us this mess were promoted (Petraeus to CIA, Allen to ISIS coordinator, Dunford for CJCS). Read their exit briefings, they all softballed Afghanistan on the way out. And they all acquiesced to a strategy they knew would fail.

    • S R says:

      “Say what you want, but Obama let his soldiers be soldiers. This Trump management from afar is delivering a Vietnam outcome.”

      Actually, the opposite happened. Obama managed the Afghanistan war from afar while he restricted the American military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan, while Trump, who was in favour of a pullout from Afghanistan and who wants nothing to do with the Afghanistan war, has greatly loosened/relaxed the American military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan and has given the American military the full authority to do whatever they want in Afghanistan to get the job done in Afghanistan.

      “Now, Trump wants to ignore that the same Saudi Princes that bankrolled ISIS, are attacking tankers in the Red Sea & demonizing Iran.”

      People say Obama was the biggest bankroller of ISIS, the creator of ISIS and the Godfather of ISIS.

      “Oil will go up in price, great little ancillary benefit.”

      The Saudis said they will make up for Iran’s oil exports coming to 0 by increasing their oil exports.

  • James says:

    Bill, I have been an avid reader of LWJ for many years now, and I intend to continue to do so. With all due respect especially to you and also all of the other informative reporters here at LWJ, I must mention though that I believe at least many if not most of the comments to at least some of the articles here at LWJ are being generated by Russian trolls. To all of you Russian trolls out there, go home. You don’t have any business inserting your comments here on LWJ.

    • Bill Roggio says:

      James, I do understand and no offense taken. We do our best to weed out the spam and trolls and such without stifling the discussion. It is just impossible for us to know which comments are coming from where. Sometimes this causes serious delays in the publishing of comments and I apologize for that.

      • James says:

        Thanks Bill for your response. I know it must be a challenge keeping up with the dynamic state of the situation. I really appreciate the work you and the rest of the staff at LWJ have accomplished thus far and will continue to do so. Indeed, this is going to be a long war.

      • irebukeu says:

        As the owner of the site, there should be statistics to show where your viewers are, IP address to connect the commenters as well.

    • S R says:

      Why do you believe that many if not most of the comments to at least some of the articles here at LWJ are being generated by Russian trolls?

    • Sid Finster says:

      Not everyone who disagrees with you is a “Russian troll”.

      Moreover, try addressing the substance of what people you disagree with write, not their alleged provenance. In other words, play the ball, not the man.

    • Sid Finster says:

      Sorry, “James”, not “Bill”.

  • CvC says:

    “It remains to be seen if Miller, like all of the generals who have preceded him, will continue to provide rosy assessments of Afghanistan as the country continues to slide into anarchy.”

    To be fair, Lt. Gen. Anderson actually gave a mixed assessment that was far more honest when he left Afghanistan (//www.nytimes.com/2014/12/09/world/asia/us-general-joseph-anderson-mission-in-afghanistan.html).

    But that seems to be the exception to the rule, and he was the ISAF Joint Command Commander / Corps Commander, not the ISAF Commander.

    There are actually two questions here, one largely (though to completely) military and one entirely political:

    (1) Is there a better strategy? (If so, what is it, how much will it cost in blood and treasure, and how does it change the probability of success?)
    (2) Is the vital U.S. interest involved worth the cost?

    We need to be honest about the possibility that the answer to question 1 is no, or that if a better one is available, it still isn’t good enough. There is no such thing as a strategy that guarantees victory, but there may be cases where even the smartest strategy is still likely to produce a loss. It may be that the odds are stacked against even “effective COIN.” The military owes, and is not providing, an honest assessment to political leadership on this questions. Political leadership owes, and it not providing, the American people a hard press on the military to answer the question honestly.

    Depending on the answer to question 1, question 2 may not matter. If probability of success, whatever we define that as, is low under the best strategy, it is time to pick-up, go home, and try to contain any follow-on damage.

    If the answer to question 1 is yes, it is still altogether possible that it is not worth the cost. That is a political questions – and one that we also lack the courage to discuss candidly and act upon. (Though it would be a lot easier to have that political discussion if we had the military one first.)

    No one, least of all military leadership, likes to admit that a war may be unwinnable, or only winnable at an unacceptable cost to the nation. It is well beyond time to put that possibility on the table.

  • S R says:

    The ANDSF have to take the fight to the Taliban. The ANDSF need to launch a nationwide operation to capture all the rural areas from the Taliban. Ghani and LTG Austin Miller need to make that happen ASAP!

  • S R says:

    To those who respond back to my replies to them, I want to say that if the LWJ posts my replies to you, I won’t reply back to you because I am going to be taking a big break from the internet (except for email use and for studying). I have not watched the TV for a very long time and I won’t watch the TV anymore, and I plan on buying a simple non-touch-screen Nokia phone so I don’t spend time on the internet anymore.

    This will be my last comment on the LWJ and this will be my last viewing of the LWJ (replies to me on LWJ are sent to my junk mail for some reason).

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