"Man Versus Afghanistan" - Robert Kaplan in Atlantic Monthly

Man Versus Afghanistan

Divided by geography, cursed by corruption, stunted by poverty, staggered by a growing insurgency—Afghanistan seems beyond salvation. Is it? From Somalia and the Balkans to Iraq, the U.S. military has been embroiled in conflicts that reflect an age-old debate: Can individual agency triumph over deep-seated historical, cultural, ethnic, and economic forces? Drawing on his experiences in Iraq, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, has his own answer to that question.

By Robert D. Kaplan, Atlantic Monthly, April 2010

We were there to fight, to do PT, to eat, to sleep, then to fight again. There was no big-screen TV or other diversion in the barracks. It was a world of concrete, plywood, and gun oil, and it was absolutely intoxicating in its intensity and unlike anything that existed in the British military.” So recollected retired Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams of the elite British Special Air Service, concerning the worst days in Iraq. In December 2006, Williams told me, there were more than 140 suicide bombings in Baghdad, a level of violence that he likened to the Nazi Blitz on London. In December 2007, there were five. “General McChrystal delivered that statistic,” a feat that not even the recent bombings in Baghdad can detract from. In Iraq, he went on, General Stanley A. McChrystal raised the “hard, nasty business” of counterterrorism—of “black ops”—to an industrial scale, with 10 nightly raids throughout the city, 300 a month, that McChrystal, now 55, regularly joined.

Williams did not discount the decisive Sunni Awakening, the surge of 20,000 extra troops into Iraq, or the deployment of troops outside the big Burger King bases and deep into the heart of hostile Iraqi neighborhoods. But he insisted that the work of the special operators commanded by McChrystal was also pivotal.

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Talks not an option yet - By Rahimullah Yusufzai, The News


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