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July 3, 2010 / J. Shaw

How Long Will the Public Tolerate Afgan War?

—McChrystal responded. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn’t work.”

Gen. David Petraeus sailed through Senate confirmation so quickly that few people noticed what he had to say about his new job as top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American forces face many more battles against a determined and resilient Taliban. “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue,” Petraeus said. “Indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months.”

But Petraeus said that as the fighting increases, and American casualties rise, the public should remember that “progress is possible” in Afghanistan. Petraeus knows that’s true, he explained, because he has seen it.

“For example, nearly seven million Afghan children are now in school as opposed to less than one million a decade ago under Taliban control,” Petraeus said. “Immunization rates for children have gone up substantially and are now in the 70 to 90 percent range nationwide. Cell phones are ubiquitous in a country that had virtually none during the Taliban days.”

It was an extraordinary moment. Americans overwhelmingly supported the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In eight and a half years of war there, 1,149 American servicemembers have died. And after all that sacrifice, the top American commander is measuring the war’s progress by school attendance, child immunization and cell phone use.

We have dozens of examples of the effects of those rules, most recently in the Rolling Stone article that led to the firing of Petraeus’ predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The article told how U.S. commanders wanted to destroy an abandoned house used by the Taliban to launch attacks, but were denied permission. Then a 23-year-old Army corporal was killed there.

“Does that make any f–king sense?” a fellow soldier asked. “You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”

In another scene detailed by author Michael Hastings, a soldier confronted McChrystal about the rules. “We aren’t putting fear into the Taliban,” he told the general.

“Winning hearts and minds in [counterinsurgency operations] is a coldblooded thing,” Read more  By Byron York


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