Al Jazeera & Armed Forces Journal – 2012-02-10 00:48:19
Fresh Debate over US Mission in Afghanistan
Members of congress pick up insights of soldier who says Pentagon is painting a misleading picture of progress
WASHINGTON (February 9, 2012) — A US army officer has accused the American military of painting a misleading picture of progress in the war in Afghanistan while glossing over the Afghan government’s many failings.
Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Davis’s accusations have sparked fresh debate about the US mission in Afghanistan.
“What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by US military leaders about conditions on the ground,” he wrote in an article published in Armed Forces Journal, a private newspaper not affiliated with the Pentagon.
“Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level,” he wrote under the headline, “Truth, Lies And Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down”.
“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding …?”
Troop commanders and politicians say the handover to Afghan troops is going well, but Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Davis, who has just returned from the country, is challenging those statements in congress.
He says that conditions on the ground are ruinous – a conclusion deeply at odds with the picture of progress put forth by the top US military brass.
It is a rare instance of a US officer openly contradicting his superiors, and Davisâ€™ insights, first published in a military journal on Sunday, have been picked up by several members of congress.
At a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, the US militaryâ€™s number-two commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, answered Davisâ€™ criticism, saying it was only one personâ€™s opinion of the general situation.
â€œI am confident, in my personal view, that our outlook is accurate,â€ he said.
Scaparrotti says he does not doubt some of what Davis wrote, and he believes US forces have work to do in training Afghan forces.
Last week Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, said US forces would transition next year from a combat role to training Afghan soldiers and police.
Truth, Lies and Afghanistan:
How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down
Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis / Armed Forces Journal
WASHINGTON (February 2012) — I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with US troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.
What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by US military leaders about conditions on the ground.
Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level….
As a representative for the Rapid Equipping Force, I set out to talk to our troops about their needs and their circumstances. Along the way, I conducted mounted and dismounted combat patrols, spending time with conventional and Special Forces troops. I interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.
I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a US or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.
I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.
From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.
(For the full interview, link to the Armed Forces Journal.)
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