Richard Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, made the following statements regarding the Af-Pak war:
“I didn’t say we don’t want to win this militarily. I said we can’t win it militarily because a pure military victory is not possible as Gen. [David] Petraeus and his colleagues have repeatedly said,”…adding that Pakistani and Taliban leaders need to be engaged on a political level.
These type of statements, which have come to define the war effort, should trouble the American people. When victory cannot be precisely defined and explicitly achieved, or when victory is dependent upon the political machinations of corrupt regimes and unstable tribal groups, the chances of a favorable outcome are significantly reduced.
If, after 9 years of war, the best our top officials can offer is “a pure military victory is not possible”, then our Democratic and Republican leaders are doing a tremendous disservice to U.S. soldiers and taxpayers. America is losing thousands of precious soldiers, the US military is beset by a PTSD epidemic and record suicide rates, and the war effort is draining the treasury at a time when the national debt is fast approaching $14 trillion. Pakistan’s government is playing both sides, the Pakistani people are averse to the constant barrage of U.S. drone attacks, the Taliban are deeply embedded in all aspects of Afghan life, and the Afghanistan government is completely corrupt. And the American public, particularly Democrats and Independents, is losing heart.
Perhaps after the mid-term elections, our leaders will sit down and do some soul searching on the Af-Pak war. Sadly though, such a prospect appears unlikely, as the Obama administration, military leadership, and incoming Republican majority, at least in the House, seem bound and determined to continue the current strategy. Therefore, any real change in war policy may have to wait until 2012.