In addition to the battle of perceptions over Marjah, General Nicholson and Frank Ruggiero testified that the Taliban’s momentum had been “blunted” and “stopped.” We felt it more appropriate to annex a series of reports on the broader insurgency that found otherwise, but everything in Afghanistan is intricately connected.
Understanding the need for the Pentagon's propaganda campaign is easy.
RAND began by concluding, despite President Obama’s surge, that the Taliban have retained nearly every advantage an insurgent can possess. US efforts to reform the Afghan government and seal off Pakistan’s sanctuary remain sluggish. RAND even labels Afghanistan an anocracy - a false democracy - which it considers a death-kiss to counterinsurgents.
The Pentagon then released dual reports, conflicting in many ways but casting an general pall on the war. Later the Pentagon was accused of fudging the maps on insurgency territory.
The ICOS released its own report on Marjah, dealing a devastating propaganda blow to the Pentagon by claiming 67% of respondents want NATO to leave the area.
Two days later the Government Accountability Office, “found that the Taliban remain a resilient fighting force, despite the boost in U.S. troops, and suggested that many factors remain in place that will allow the Taliban to survive U.S. efforts to eradicate them.”
And yesterday The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), former incubator to many of President Obama's civilian and military advisers, found that, "Politics is the blind spot in America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan."
"This report notes that America's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has focused more on waging war at the operational and tactical levels at the expense of the strategic and political levels," writes the author, Andrew Exum.
Exum is already calling for a new review rather than wait until December, which we've argued for months.
The CNAS marks the latest report in a matter of weeks to conclude what we've been predicting since Obama came to office: the political spectrum of COIN still takes a backseat to US military operations, and the Taliban is likely to survive Obama’s surge relatively intact.
He will be forced into yet another decision around July 2011 whether to deploy more forces or begin withdrawing for good, a decision he's likely to base more off his own political candidacy.
These reports are only a slice of the wicked information war surrounding Afghanistan, both inside the US government and vis-à-vis its people.
“A counterinsurgent can seldom cover bad or nonexistent policy with propaganda.”
- David Galula