Archive for the 'John Nagl' Category

NYT Changing Tune on Afghanistan? Are Fairies Real?

BY Glen Tschirgi
13 years, 2 months ago

When a newspaper as biased and agenda-driven as The New York Times begins to voice even cautious optimism about Afghanistan, there is only one question to ask:  how does this help the liberal agenda?

Herschel covered the opinion piece by Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl in his most recent post and threw considerable cold water on Fick and Nagl’s optimism.   Within the space of a day, The New York Times runs an almost companion-piece/follow up article by Carlotta Gall that reports on growing “fissures” between the fighting ranks of the Taliban and their Pakistani-based masters.

Consider this hopeful tone:

Recent defeats and general weariness after nine years of war are creating fissures between the Taliban’s top leadership based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders, who have borne the brunt of the fighting and are reluctant to return to some battle zones, Taliban members said in interviews.

After suffering defeats with the influx of thousands of new American troops in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand last year, many Taliban fighters retreated across the border to the safety of Pakistan. They are now coming under pressure from their leaders to return to Afghanistan to step up the fight again, a Taliban commander said. Many are hesitant to do so, at least for now.

“I have talked to some commanders, and they are reluctant to fight,” one 45-year-old commander who has been with the Taliban since its founding in 1994 said in an interview in this southern city. He spoke on condition he not be identified because he was in hiding from American and government forces. “Definitely there is disagreement between the field commanders and the leaders over their demands to go and fight.”

It is a bit disorienting, I admit.  I will have to ask my father, a WWII veteran, whether this is what newspapers used to sound like before they began bleating unashamedly for American defeat.

At any rate, after reading these, two articles (and regaining my equilibrium) I wonder whether we are beginning to see the first bit of 2012 Campaign messaging on Afghanistan.

I should state up front that I would like to believe that the war in Afghanistan is going better.  I am not afraid to use the word, “victory.”  Indeed, it is almost impossible to believe that the influx of additional troops — although far too few vis a vis the Iraqi Surge– could not achieve at least some tactical gains.  Furthermore, when I reflect on the unbelievably negative reporting from liberal media throughout the Iraq campaign, I consider that a few, like Michael Yon, who spent long embeds with combat units, pointed to a turnaround in Iraq long before it became clearly established, so, perhaps, Fick and Nagl have insights that the rest of the media is missing.

Could major media outlets like the NYT have learned from their mistakes on Iraq and actually be catching the first signs of a turnaround in Afghanistan?

Maybe.  But I doubt it.  As any parent will tell you, when your 12-year old, who is allergic to washing dirty dishes, starts cheerfully cleaning the kitchen, the first reaction is suspicion not sudden conversion.  It is about knowing with whom you are dealing.

And when we are dealing with liberal media like the NYT, we know that they have a congenital predisposition to echo whatever talking points they are given by Obama and the Democrats in general.

Turning to the Fick/Nagl piece and the Gall article, is there a discernible message being conveyed?  Yes, it seems that way.  When you compare these, two pieces on Afghanistan, there is a narrative that emerges that may very well be Obama’s re-election theme for 2012 on foreign policy: bringing Afghanistan back from the drift of the Bush years and making it possible to “Afghanize” the war by 2014, ending U.S. involvement.

Consider the Fick/Nagl opinion piece.

It stresses themes that are clear, Obama policy goals such as drawing down troop levels:

It now seems more likely than not that the country can achieve the modest level of stability and self-reliance necessary to allow the United States to responsibly draw down its forces from 100,000 to 25,000 troops over the next four years.

Here is another liberal talking point that argues that we can prevail in Afghanistan by simply protecting population centers and key road:

Half of the violence in Afghanistan takes place in only 9 of its nearly 400 districts, with Sangin ranking among the very worst. Slowly but surely, even in Sangin, the Taliban are being driven from their sanctuaries as the coalition focuses on protecting the Afghan people in key population centers and hubs of economic activity, and along the roads that connect them. Once these areas are cleared, it will be possible to hold them with Afghan troops and a few American advisers — allowing the United States to thin its deployments over time.

Again, the key aim emphasized is to leave behind a “few American advisers… to thin [U.S.] deployments over time.”  I am not against reducing deployments “over time,” but this is a basic disagreement over strategy between having enough troops to beat down the Taliban and getting by with insufficient numbers for too short a time to do any, lasting good.   In order for the “less is more” approach to work, however, the ANA has to get much bigger, much better and, most importantly, much faster.  Strangely enough that is just what Fick and Nagl find:

Afghan Army troop strength has increased remarkably. The sheer scale of the effort at the Kabul Military Training Center has to be seen to be appreciated. Rows of new barracks surround a blue-domed mosque, and live-fire training ranges stretched to the mountains on the horizon.

It was a revelation to watch an Afghan squad, only days from deployment to Paktika Province on the Pakistani border, demonstrate a fire-and-maneuver exercise before jogging over to chat with American visitors. When asked, each soldier said that he had joined the Army to serve Afghanistan. Most encouraging of all was the response to a question that resonates with 18- and 19-year-old soldiers everywhere: how does your mother feel? “Proud.”

And then we have the theme that Obama and liberals everywhere hooted constantly– the tragic distraction of Bush’s Iraq (the “bad war”) that we are now, at long last overcoming; the prospect of negotiating with the Taliban to end the war that is “vital” to our national interests (the “good war”):

Not since the deterioration in conditions in Iraq that drew our attention away from Afghanistan have coalition forces been in such a strong position to force the enemy to the negotiating table. We should hold fast and work for the day when Afghanistan, and our vital interests there, can be safeguarded primarily by Afghans.

The planned drawdown of forces in 2014 is a foregone conclusion.  Negotiations with the Taliban is a favorite fantasy of the Administration.

The news article by Gall picks up the ball from Fick and Nagl nicely. As noted in the quote above, the “influx of thousands of…troops” has worn down the Taliban and created “fissures” between the fighters and Taliban leadership in Pakistan.   The opportunity for negotiation just keeps getting better and better.  In fact, as Gall frames it, if it wasn’t for those stick-in-the-mud-mullahs in Pakistan, Hillary Clinton would be signing peace deals all over the place:

The differences point not just to the increasing stresses on the battlefield for midlevel Taliban commanders like him, but also to the difficulty of ending the insurgency as long as the Taliban’s top leadership has sanctuary in Pakistan, which has long protected and sponsored the Taliban.

Secure across the border, and tightly controlled by Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, the top Taliban leadership remains uncompromising. At the urging of their protectors in Pakistan, Taliban members say, they continue to push midlevel Taliban commanders back across the border to carry on the insurgency, which extends Pakistan’s influence in southern Afghanistan.

The midlevel commanders have little choice but to comply, as they also depend on sanctuaries in Pakistan, where they maintain their families, say residents in Kandahar who know the Taliban well. The Taliban commander said in his interview that the field commanders would obey their orders to resume the fight, however reluctant they might be.

We have this about won, it seems.  But as Herschel has repeatedly noted, the Taliban cannot be beaten with the whack-a-mole strategy.  We have too few troops spread out across too much territory.  This Administration has been trying to find the exit ramp out of Afghanistan since day one.

If the NYT stories are any indication, the message from Obama on Afghanistan in 2011 and beyond is more smoke and mirrors.  Or is that ‘hope and change’ ?

Counterinsurgency Versus Counterterrorism

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 7 months ago

John Nagl recently testified on Capital Hill.  Here are a few of the highlights.

At the hearing, when Kerry asked John Nagl to explain the difference between a counterinsurgency campaign and a counter-terror campaign, Nagl said that the “latter is component of former. Counter-terrorism ‘focuses on the enemy,’ while a counterinsurgency focuses on people who, in turn, provide intelligence about where the enemy is hiding and fighting from. The reason that a counterinsurgency campaign is so much more comprehensive than a counter-terror campaign is that it involves a civilian component to stabilize the government, institutions, and necessities of the populace.”

According to Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, most Afghanis want a more involved approach. “When you speak to Afghans on the ground, their fear is not more engagement,” he said, “their fear is less engagement . . . fear of abandonment.” The problem is that although Afghans support the U.S. troop presence far more than they support the Taliban, the Taliban simply gives the people more services than their own government does. “It’s a commonly accepted principle of counterinsurgency theory that if you’re losing, you are not being outfought, you are being out-governed,” Nagl said.

Nagl thinks that effectively completing this counterinsurgency strategy would take five years and “we should expect to spend over those five years what we spent in last eight years.” But Kerry believes that more troops have not improved the situation and that the current light-footprint has been relatively successful: “The goal of the president is to prevent al Qaeda from attacking from Afghanistan and from destabilizing Pakistan. We are doing better in Pakistan and there is no al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” he said. “Does that tell us something about lighter footprint success?” When Nagl explained that you can conduct counter-terror, but not counterinsurgency, with a light footprint, Kerry responded, “exactly the point I’m trying to get at . . . you can do counter-terror with a light footprint.”

As for Kerry’s notion of doing counterterrorism with a light footprint, let me be clear.  No we can’t.  Or to be more clear in case you missed it, NO WE CAN’T.  Or one more time a little differently …

NO … WE … CAN’T!

Joe Biden is apparently trafficking in the same rubbish as Kerry.  Who knows.  Maybe Obama is listening to this rubbish because it feels good to think about winning with a small commitment – like a little whiskey and a good after-dinner cigar.  Uncle Jimbo lampoons Biden’s position.

We have been laughing on our back channel about the Biden plan to have our secret squirrels locate al Qaeda and then let our magic ninjas swoop in and take them out. The idea is ludicrous for many reasons, but mostly because we don’t have the will to do the dirty trickery necessary to pull it off.

Ever since we eviscerated the CIA in the Carter era and destroyed any ability to do human intelligence we have relied on electronic intercepts and satellite imagery for our weak and generally wrong “intelligence”. While those tools can be useful, absent a humint capability, they are woefully inadequate. So the idea that we could rely on them is a joke I ‘m surprised they have the stones to make. Targeted strikes by UAVs in Pakistan have been successful, but expanding that into a theater-wide, pipehitter free fire zone is not gonna happen.

If I thought for a minute that they were serious about actually resourcing this and providing the networks of spies, warlords, assassins, and shady characters with satchels of cash it would take to make it work, I might could get behind it. But does anyone see the Obama administration, which right now is thinking about prosecuting the CIA for being mean to terrorists, doing any of that? All right, get up off the floor.

True, Carter (and Clinton who UJ doesn’t mention) destroyed the CIA humint capabilities, and the Obama administration has continued the war with the CIA.  But just to be clear, it isn’t all about surreptitious cloak and dagger raids by SOF any more than it’s about satchels of cash.  I have been clear about my disdain for the use of SOF to perform ONLY raids while infantry performs ONLY policing and foot patrols.  This division has hurt the readiness and capabilities of the U.S. Army.  The Marines have no such division of labor.  But aside from this objection, the idea that we can garrison small units of SOF in Afghanistan while the ANSF protects the countryside and ensures logistics is worse than mythical.  It’s dangerous and likely to be deadly for our SOF troopers.

Within a few months of withdrawal of forces, the Taliban (who are now said to have a permanent presence in 80% of Afghanistan) will have beheaded the Afghans who cooperated with the U.S.  The line of logistics will have been completely shut down, and there will be no CAS because there will be no airfields.  The idea that we can do this from offshore is preposterous.  It will require SOF operations in order to extricate the SOF from Afghanistan once the Taliban have killed the ANP and routed the ANA.

Kerry is living in a dreamland, a mythical world where the right words read from a teleprompter makes everything alright.  But this world doesn’t obtain.  We must re-enter the real world, and in the real world we need more troops in Afghanistan.

Why are we in the Helmand Province?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 7 months ago

In Helmand is a Sideshow – Or Not I addressed the charge that had been leveled in a WSJ article that Helmand was a sideshow to the real fight.  Summarizing, the author said:

American forces have been waging a major offensive in the neighboring southern province of Helmand, the center of Afghanistan’s drug trade. Some U.S. military officials believe the Taliban have taken advantage of the American preoccupation with Helmand to infiltrate Kandahar and set up shadow local governments and courts throughout the city.

“Helmand is a sideshow,” said the senior military official briefed on the analysis. “Kandahar is the capital of the south [and] that’s why they want it.”

I responded:

The Helmand Province is the home of the indigenous insurgency, the Afghanistan Taliban, and its capital is Lashkar Gah.  Without hitting the Taliban’s recruiting grounds, fund raising and revenue development, training grounds, and logistical supply lines, the campaign cannot be won.  Focusing on the population centers is a loser strategy, doomed to sure failure.  Controlling the cities as some sort of prison while the roads are all controlled by Taliban is just what the Russians did, only to withdraw in ignominy.  The Marines are in Helmand because just like Anbar, Iraq at the time, it is the worst place on earth.

But the narrative won’t go away, and even seems to be gaining momentum.  Joe Klein weighs in with the next installment.

The U.S. military does not move in mysterious ways. It plods, it plans, it plots out every logistical detail before launching an initiative. Things take time. For example: not all of the 21,000 additional forces that President Obama authorized for Afghanistan last winter have even arrived in the country yet. For another example: the battle plan those troops were asked to execute was devised primarily by General David McKiernan, who was replaced about the time the troops started arriving. McKiernan’s plan reflected his experience in conventional warfare: he chose to deploy the troops where the bad guys were — largely in Helmand province on the Pakistani border, home of nearly 60% of the world’s opium crop, a place that was firmly in Taliban control. But pursuing conventional warfare in Afghanistan is about as effective as using a football in a tennis match. The Army’s new counterinsurgency doctrine says you go where the people are concentrated and protect them, then gradually move into the sectors the bad guys control. That is not what we’re doing in Afghanistan. In addition to all the other problems we’re facing — the corruption of the Karzai government, the election chaos, the porous Pakistani border — it has become apparent that we’re pursuing the wrong military strategy in this frustrating war.

Note how the narrative has graduated to the strategy being implemented was McKiernan’s, not McChrystal’s, and McChrystal had no choice in the matter due to logistical inertia.  Continuing with the “McChrystal is powerless to change things” meme:

Upon his arrival in Afghanistan as McKiernan’s replacement last June, General Stanley McChrystal was pretty much presented with a fait accompli: the troops were arriving in Helmand. “The ship was moving in that direction,” a military expert told me, “and it would have been difficult to turn it around.” Indeed, it would have taken months of planning to change course. The additional troops were needed immediately to blunt the momentum of the Taliban and also to provide security for the Afghan elections. The trouble was, the troops would have been better deployed in Helmand’s neighbor to the east — Kandahar province, especially in Kandahar city and its suburbs. “Kandahar is the center of gravity in this insurgency,” says John Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who helped write the Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine. “It is as important now as Fallujah was in Iraq in 2004.”

Kandahar is the capital city of Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority, home of both the Karzai family and Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban. It is where the Taliban began. It has been run, in a staggeringly corrupt manner, by Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai — who, according to U.S. investigators, has extensive links to the opium trade. As the Karzai government has grown more unpopular, the situation in Kandahar has deteriorated. The Taliban own the night, slipping death threats under the doors of those who would cooperate with the government. In Iraq the military’s counterinsurgency strategy turned around a similarly bleak urban situation — notably in Baghdad, where U.S. troops helped the Iraqis regain control of neighborhoods by setting up and staffing joint security stations. But the troops who should be securing Kandahar are fighting an elusive enemy in Helmand.

Following Clausewitz into a single center of gravity for a campaign is the reason behind Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN, and I still continue to believe that nothing so easy and clear will present itself as a single focal point for our efforts.  But the statement concerning Fallujah in 2004 is odd.

Kandahar doesn’t seem anything like Fallujah in 2004.  The security situation in Kandahar may be degrading, but in Fallujah it was so bad that at the beginning of al Fajr the city was free of noncombatants and only fighters were left behind, many or most of whom were high on epinephrine and morphine.  The campaign in Anbar saw more than 1000 U.S. Marines perish, way more than have died in Operation Enduring Freedom between all branches of the service.  Fallujah saw continued operations into 2007 with Operation Alljah, but during the fight for Anbar Marines were also deployed to Haditha, al Qaim, Hit, the Syrian border and other rural areas.

The argument to control the streets of Kandahar makes sense if that argument doesn’t also hinge upon removing the Marines from Helmand where the fighters recruit, train, raise their support, and get ingress to and egress from Afghanistan.  In Now Zad Taliban fighters have been so unmolested that they have used that area for R&R.  The city of Now Zad – with an erstwhile population of 30,000+ civilians – is deserted with only insurgents remaining to terrorize the area so that inhabitants don’t return.  The Marines are so under-resourced that they can only fight the Taliban to a standstill.  It is so dangerous in Now Zad that the Marines deployed there are the only ones to bring two trauma doctors with them.

It is a strange argument indeed that sends Marines to Kandahar while the insurgents in Now Zad have separated themselves off from civilians and invited a fight.  So send more Marines to Kandahar to control the streets.  The Taliban bullying will stop once a Regimental Combat Team arrives.  This should not be too difficult to pull off.  As I have said before, there are so many Marines at Camp Lejeune that some units are not even in the same barracks, and more barracks are being built.  Not since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom has the Corps been so large with so many Marines garrisoned in the states.  Furthermore, if they aren’t in the states they are on board amphibious assault docks doing nothing.  Entire Battalions of Marine infantry – doing nothing for nine months.

But if the resources to control Kandahar are there, the argument to remove them from Helmand is not.  Whether the sources for the WSJ and Joe Klein’s article are wishing for the narrative to gain traction or there is in reality a sense that Helmand is a sideshow is irrelevant.  The strategists need to sense the reality that Helmand is not a sideshow, and that it is a very real line of effort in the campaign.  Without hitting the insurgents where they live we will follow the Russians out of Afghanistan.

CNAS Releases Afghanistan Study

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

The Center for a New American Security, which is advising the Obama administration, has released Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Permit us a few observations?  On page 4 we read that they advocate that we:

Adopt a truly population-centric counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes protecting the population rather than controlling physical terrain or killing the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Notice how killing Taliban and al Qaeda has been set in juxtaposition over against protecting the population, as if the two are mutually exclusive.  We have dealt with this before in Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN, where we argued that the Clausewitzian concept of a single center of gravity should be jettisoned in favor of multiple lines of operation and lines of effort.  As far as protecting the population and killing the enemy, it isn’t EITHER-OR, it’s BOTH-AND.   But we have to get off of the huge FOBs in order to do it.  Dealing with this in a little more visceral way, let’s allow Greyhawk to respond as he did in a comment at Abu Muqawama.

I may be wrong – but there seems to be some fundamental misunderstanding of COIN in general and “protecting the population” at play here.

The idea that those are somehow efforts that don’t involve killing bad guys and blowing things up is wrong. I know this is obvious to 90% of the people who comment here, but there’s also a growing number of people seeking understanding of this newfangled “COIN” business who may be under the impression that it’s some sort of bloodless warfare – and some may scan these comments for illumination. If you aren’t among that number skip this rest of this.

In Iraq for the early days of the surge we did not pull away from contact for fear of hurting someone – in fact we did the opposite. We plopped ourselves down in various neighborhoods (very much to protect the populations therein) knowing full well a bit of the old ultra violence would ensue. Check the death tolls* – civilian or military – for late winter to early summer ’07 to see the result.

We killed bad guys (“irreconcilables”) in droves. If they didn’t come to us, we air assaulted (sorry – delivered troops via helicopter) to them. And if CAS (sorry – close air support, aka death from above via fixed or rotary wing aircraft…) was needed for TIC (sorry – troops in contact, meaning exchanging gunfire with the enemy), CAS was delivered. (Do not, however, take this to mean wanton, indiscriminate slaughter.)

COIN is not a fluffy bunny warfare world where no one gets hurt and we all ride unicorns over rainbows. It is very much killing the enemy. Protecting the population requires it.

To be completely fair, they do tip the hat to “lines of operation” on page 15, but this still doesn’t undo the basic presupposition where one aspect of counterinsurgency is set over against another.  But it gets a little better.  On page 19 and following, CNAS may even be taking a page from us when they take direct aim at the HVT concept.  If they are advocating a stand-down from the high value target campaign, they we heartily agree.  We have gone further in advocating the re-attachment of SOF to infantry, and getting infantry all places, everywhere, all of the time.

But of course, this requires troops.  What is strangely missing in this report is advocacy for large troop additions.  It isn’t mere coincidence that John Nagl, who once advocated 600,000 troops for Afghanistan, now heads up CNAS which is advising the Obama administration.  It has become apparent that this administration will not contribute more than around 68,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The report may not be the triage it was meant to be.  Instead, it may be well intentioned [politically affected?] analysis that sends too few men on an impossible mission.

John Nagl on Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 2 months ago

At a New York Times blog John Nagl weighs in on Afghanistan.

In 2007, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, was very blunt before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He admitted, “In Iraq, we do what we must.” Of America’s other war, he said, “In Afghanistan, we do what we can.”

Doing what we can has been insufficient in Afghanistan. Fortunately, an improving security situation and an increasingly capable Iraqi government now allow the United States to shift the balance of effort east, to America’s forgotten war.

This shift comes in the nick of time. The Taliban has been growing stronger in the poorly administered Pashtun tribal areas on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Last year was the bloodiest year on record for the international coalition, and service in Afghanistan is far more dangerous on a per-soldier basis than is service in Iraq. It is clearly time for a change in strategy.

The essence of success is counterinsurgency, which requires boots on the ground, and plenty of them — 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1,000 people, or some 600,000 for all of Afghanistan, a country larger and more populous than Iraq. The additional 30,000 American forces on tap for deployment to Afghanistan over the next year are sorely needed, but obviously insufficient to protect all 30 million people in the country.

However, insurgencies are not defeated by foreign forces. They are defeated by the security services of the afflicted nation. Thus the long-term answer to the Taliban’s insurgency has to be a much expanded Afghan National Army. Currently 70,000 and projected to grow to 135,000, the Afghan army is the most respected institution in that troubled country. It may need to reach 250,000, and be supported by a similarly sized police force, to provide the security that will cause the Taliban to wither. Building such an Afghan Army will be a long-term effort that will require American equipment and advisers for many years, but since the Afghans can field about 70 troops for the cost of one deployed American soldier, there is no faster, cheaper or better way to win.

Would it hurt Nagl’s reputation for The Captain’s Journal to agree?  We might quibble slightly over the number of troops (Nagl hits the high side), and Afghanistan is a campaign that will evolve in the coming months.  We’ll see if it really takes that many.  But we have argued for more troops for over a year, along with the jettisoning of the notion that we can engineer a cheap “awakening” to prevent the necessity of actually conducting COIN.

As for the idea of reliance on the Afghan Army, recall what we said in The Likely Failure of Tribal Miltias in Afghanistan, where we point out the population had the highest confidence in the Afghan Army and lowest in tribal fighters.  Nagl is right.  The Army (and to a lesser degree the Afghan National Police) are our best bet for pacification of the countryside.

There is another entry in this same post that deserves a few words, that being from Parag Khanna.

Even if an additional 30,000 American and NATO troops were deployed in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban problem would not be reduced. It would merely be pushed back over the Pakistan border, destabilizing Pakistan’s already volatile North-West Frontier Province, which itself is more populous than Iraq. This amounts to squeezing a balloon on one end to inflate it on the other.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and this argument amounts to nothing more than the idea that we cannot militarily defeat the Taliban because they cannot be cordoned.  While the SOF high value target campaign with small footprint and low force projection cannot stop the ingress and egress of fighters, an adequate increase in the number of troops can indeed be successful, at least in terms of a deliberate, methodical approach to counterinsurgency.  The Afghan Taliban and the TTP both clearly believe that the first fight is their jihad is the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The refusal to engage Syria and Iran concerning the influx of fighters into Iraq was problematic, and it is true enough that Pakistan must be engaged sooner or later, whether by soft power, additional resources, political and diplomatic pressure, targeted raids and UAV strikes, and even eventually military operations if necessary.  But the first step is to increase troop presence in Afghanistan.  There is no need to engage in endless debates over Pakistan when the first steps haven’t even been taken for Afghanistan.

This is not a call to neglect regional strategy.  But it is a call to prevent the desire for perfection from being the enemy of progress.  We endorse Nagl’s counsel concerning Afghanistan, and he will just have to live down the connection with us.

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