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Pentagon Declares Failed Afghanistan Surge a Success…by Redefining its Goal after the Fact

Published: October 1, 2012
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Source: ALL Gov.

After eleven years of war in Afghanistan, which have left 15,322 Americans wounded and 2,126 dead, the Pentagon appears ready to take the advice given by Senator George Aiken (R-Vermont) in 1966 regarding the failing war in Vietnam: unilaterally declare victory and go home. To make such a declaration even marginally credible, however, the military has first determined to “move the goalposts” by redefining the goals of the war after the fact.


That the war in Afghanistan, including the “troop surge” ordered by President Obama in 2009, has been a failure is clear from a recent report released by the NATO Afghanistan military command. For example, in July 2009, just a few months before the surge, insurgent attacks totaled about 2,000, while in July 2012 they attacked about 3,000 times, an increase of about 33%. (Because the precise number of attacks remains classified, precise statistical analysis is impossible.) The same is true for every month in 2009 compared to every month in 2012 for which data exists: The insurgency launched more attacks in 2012 than it did in 2009. The conclusion is inescapable: the troop surge has done nothing to degrade the insurgents’ military strength or capabilities.

And that was the purpose of the troop surge, as President Obama explained in a speech at West Point in December 2009 announcing his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan: “We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.”

Because that goal has not been met, as the surge winds down the military has discovered another, more limited goal that it believes it can claim to have achieved. Two weeks ago, General Martin E. Dempsey, who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contended that the intended purpose of the surge was “to buy us some time to push back on some Taliban initiatives—particularly in the south and southwest—and to buy us some space to grow the Afghan security forces.”

While it is true that Afghan security forces have grown by about 50,000 during the surge period, it is also true that attacks by members of those forces on American and allied forces have also grown. With the troop surge ending October 1, and the U.S. committed to withdrawing all forces by the end of 2014, declaring victory and going home seems the most rational course of action, particularly as two-thirds of Americans want U.S. troops to return as soon as possible.

- Matt Bewig

 To Learn More:

Pentagon Invents New Goal for Afghan Surge Now That It’s Done (by Spencer Ackerman, Wired)

Military’s Own Report Card Gives Afghan Surge an F (by Spencer Ackerman, Wired)

ISAF Monthly Data Trends through August 2012 (NATO Afghanistan Command) (pdf)


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