Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

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Afghanistan and the Disturbing Lack of Stategic Thinking
The Washington Post on Sunday carried a disturbing piece on Afghanistan, where the problems cited are part of a broader pattern of the same mistakes across the spectrum in the war with radical Islamists.

After summing up the litany of problems, from a weak and failing government to the fact that the _jihadists_ seem to be able to easily replace the large number of combatants being killed, Karen DeYoung writes that:

But others said the problem is not Pakistan or a lack of military or financial resources in Afghanistan. It is the absence, they say, of a strategic plan that melds the U.S. military effort with a comprehensive blueprint for development and governance throughout the country.

"There are plenty of dollars and a hell of a lot more troops there, by a factor of two, from when I was there," the former commander said. The question, he said, is "who owns the overarching campaign for Afghanistan, and what is it?"

The absence of an overarching strategic plan stretches across the board, to dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood to defining the agenda at the upcoming Annapolis meeting.

There is a constant division over who owns the strategic plan, and how to get the government to move in unison on it.

What is truly dismaying is that this lack of strategic thinking prevails six years after a successful military campaign in Afghanistan, one that many felt could not be won quickly and with little loss of life.

In fact, the campaign actually turned out to be, in many ways, one of the great successes. That Osama bin Laden and his main cadre escaped has cast a shadow on the campaign, but even so, it was quicker and less costly, in terms of blood and treasure, tha most people thought possible.

Gen. Patreus seems to have finally created a strategy for the United States efforts in Iraq, although the Iraqi political leadership has yet to buy in. Afghanistan is complicated by the multiple interests of multiple nations providing troops.

The danger, of course, is that defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory. My colleague at the NEFA Foundation recently wrote a paper on the Taliban's success in moving toward Kabul, something that was relatively unthinkable a year or two ago.

It is hard to imagine a more stinging, and costly, indictment of our lack of ability on the civilian leadership side-on both sides of the Atlantic-than the lack of unified vision and strategy in Afghanistan. If we lose there, and we may, we will pay for it dearly.

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