14 July 2008
The war continues to abate in Iraq. Violence is still present, but, of course, Iraq was a relatively violent place long before Coalition forces moved in. I would go so far as to say that barring any major and unexpected developments (like an Israeli air strike on Iran and the retaliations that would follow), a fair-minded person could say with reasonable certainty that the war has ended. A new and better nation is growing legs. What's left is messy politics that likely will be punctuated by low-level violence and the occasional spectacular attack. Yet, the will of the Iraqi people has changed, and the Iraqi military has dramatically improved, so those spectacular attacks are diminishing along with the regular violence. Now it's time to rebuild the country, and create a pluralistic, stable and peaceful Iraq. That will be long, hard work. But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.
I wish I could say the same for Afghanistan. But that war we clearly are losing: I am preparing to go there and see the situation for myself. My friends and contacts who have a good understanding of Afghanistan are, to a man, pessimistic about the current situation. Interestingly, however, every one of them believes that Afghanistan can be turned into a success. They all say we need to change our approach, but in the long-term Afghanistan can stand on its own. The sources range from four-stars to civilians from the United States, Great Britain and other places. A couple years ago, some of these sources believed that defeat was imminent in Iraq. They were nearly right about Iraq, although some of them knew far less about Iraq than they do about Afghanistan. But it's clear that hard days are ahead in Afghanistan. We just lost nine of our soldiers in a single firefight, where the enemy entered a base and nearly overran it.
The news from Afghanistan is reason for pessimism. For some more optimistic news, please look at these statistics from Iraq, and remember that if we could turn things around in that country, we might be able to do the same in Afghanistan.