02 November 2008

The other side of the COIN...

As this latest presidential campaign draws to a close with the quick approach of November 4th, there is no doubt that the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan always held a prominent place on the whole plate of issues.

That being said, it can be easy for us to focus only on the impact on Americans that the wars have held.  American fatalities and casualties typically shoot to the top of the headlines (but usually only in the form of cold, unemotional statistics).  The travesty that is our system of institutions and programs that are supposed to help returning wounded veterans is another salient topic of the times.

It's easy to forget that in Iraq, there are more than 25 million people trying to scratch out a life for themselves and their families -- all while death comes and knocks on doors all around them.

The New York Times gives us a good reminder of the type of challenges that an untold number of families face in Iraq on a daily basis...

01 November 2008

Petraeus takes over CENTCOM; SECDEF seeks "coherence" to Afghanistan strategy

GEN Petraeus took over U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), giving him overally responsibility over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stressed that while it would be a primary
task for General Petraeus to "keep us on the right path in Iraq," an immediate
challenge was "bringing coherence to our own strategy" in Afghanistan.

So we'll see what happens. I greatly admire and respect GEN Petraeus: he epitomizes everything about that warrior-scholar paradigm. I hope he knows what the next step in Afghanistan is, because I certainly don't. I feel as though even classic COIN strategy may find itself challenged in Afghanistan (assuming, of course, that we are even undertaking a classical COIN effort).

Where STEP ONE always reads "Secure the population," I wonder if we have yet to even lace our boots up in that regard. The enemy is able to move and operate with almost complete freedom, and is able to threaten and influence the population as he pleases. The presence of a neighboring nation-state which is either unwilling or unable (due to fears of retribution or reprisals or fomenting instability etc. etc.) to prosecute any kind of substantial search for terrorists within its borders, certainly exacerbates the situation.

We have a long way to go in the long war in Afghanistan. I hope GEN Petraeus' hundred-pound brain can put us on the right path.