The entire history of governmental reporting on war since ancient Athens is a warning that democratic governments need constant public and legislative scrutiny, that they make more mistakes without it, and that governments do not deserve public trust, they must earn it.Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, used to work from Senator John McCain (R-AZ). He characterizes U.S. reporting as follows:
Unlike Iraq, the US government has never attempted to provide any structured metrics or analysis of the fighting. The US Department of Defense has largely halted detailed reporting on the war. It has not provided any recent formal reporting on the course of the war. The web site for Operation Enduring Freedom has been replaced by a general heading for Afghanistan that is almost useless in providing meaningful information on the war. The US State Department provides some data on aid spending, but no meaningful data on either the detailed justification for that aid or measures of effectiveness of aid beyond some data on projects completed as distinguished from the level of requirements met and impact on war fighting. The White House web site is little more than a morass of slogans.It takes a bit of work to find that morass, however; there is no link to items on Afghanistan on the White House home page. The link to Barney Cam, rather than providing footage of any of my Afghanistan-related activities (such as my attempts to convince various border officials that it is perfectly normal to have dozens of visas to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., London, Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya, in one's passport), instead shows the President's dog.
Cordesman shows that the usual framework for reporting is misleading:
Almost all reporting on the war has also dealt with the Afghan conflict as if it was somehow separate from the build-up of the Taliban, Al Qa’ida, and other Islamist extremist movements. Governments and the media have covered one conflict as if it were three different struggles:Furthermore, the depiction of the struggle as primarily military and of the solution as more troops is wrong:
- The fighting against the Taliban and Islamist extremists in Afghanistan.
- The fighting against the Taliban and Islamist extremists in the tribal agency areas (Waziristan) in Eastern Pakistan.
The fact is, that all three of these conflicts are so interlinked that they cannot be separated from each other. Moreover, it is far from clear that the US, NATO, or Pakistani government are winning any one element of this broader struggle. Its center of gravity has become a struggle for control of Pashtun territory that is evolving along ethnic lines and cuts across national borders. As Musharraf’s declaration of a State of Emergency shows, events in Pakistan are too troubled and uncertain at every level to not see this war as an Afghan –Pakistani conflict.
- Al Qa’ida and Bin Laden operations in the near "sanctuary" in the region, probably Waziristan.
The war is not a military struggle or classic counterinsurgency. It is an exercise in armed nation building that involves all of Afghanistan’s ethnic and sectarian groups, and which is primarily a struggle for the control of political and ethnic space that extends across a national boundary.The second paper consists of a very useful a status report on the "Afghan-Pakistan War" in the form of slides. His summary of conclusions:
There is no way to calculate how long it will take the Afghan government and Afghan forces to be effective, or how long it will take NATO/ISAF and the US to “win” in Afghanistan. Pakistan remains a major wild card in predicting the outcome, and oneThe papers contain insights on every aspect of the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflict. Read them both here.
where the recent Musharraf coup has made the Afghan-Pakistani war even more unpredictable. The sheer survival of Al Qa’ida’s top leadership is a problem in itself, and there are few indications that the attrition of some of Al Qa’ida’s leadership has so far had any serious effect.
Even if one focuses solely on Afghanistan, progress is far from clear and victory is anything but certain. Many of the security, governance, and aid efforts during 2002-2006 were poorly organized and coordinated, lacked focus on key security and stability problems, and were badly underresourced in money and manpower. . . .
At the same time, improvements in virtually every aspect of Afghan governance have been grindingly slow. . . .
The counternarcotics effort has failed to reduce supply, given the Taliban new influence and access to resources, and done more to alienate than aid the Afghan people. New increases in aid money have yet to have a major impact in the field, and
serious questions exist about the ability to use aid effectively in high risk and conflict areas.
The most serious question affecting the ability to “win” in Afghanistan is also what will happen in the future. It is whether the US, NATO/ISAF, and Afghan government can carry out a prolonged campaign that is likely to extend long beyond 2009 -- probably by at least half a decade. The Afghan-Pakistan War is an ideological, political, economic, and military war of attrition where the Taliban may be able to either “win” or at least “defeat” the US and NATO/ISAF simply by surviving and outlasting the willingness of outside powers to sustain the conflict. In a war between time and technology, time is likely to be decisive . . . .