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Afghanistan Strategy Rebuttal: Counterinsurgency Incoherence

As a rebuttal to President Obama's announced Afghanistan strategy last night, the Washington Times has published my OpEd in Wednesday morning's edition. Focused more on exit strategies and time tables than on actually defeating the enemy, it appears clear the the mission can readily be called "Counterinsurgency incoherence."

For a counterinsurgency effort to succeed, the willing partners aren't in Kabul or Islamabad, no matter the demands made upon each. Rather, they reside in the villages and towns spread through the provinces of Afghanistan. Winning over the local leaders will strengthen our position and ultimately lead to the Afghan people demanding better governance from Kabul.

This requires - in both word and deed - clear demonstration of presence and resolve, not in intellectual arguments for an exit strategy. There are no exits for the Afghans we seek to defend in parallel with our own security and interests.

While we amuse ourselves with our intellect and mastery of nuance and the complex, a very simple truth remains. There is no exit for the Afghan people. Our strategies and time tables mean nothing to them. When we leave, angry men will remain to recall their assistance to Americans and slit their families' throats.

Let that sink in on a very personal level. Imagine yourself an Afghan with a family and children. What would you do?

Yeah. So will the Afghans we need to defeat this insurgency.

Utterly incoherent strategy. This will not end well. But perhaps the president is content being the one to "finish the job." We'll call it a "responsible exit." And then we'll forget about the Afghan and his family suddenly among the hunted. It will have been the "responsible" thing to do.

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