Success in Helmand shatters Obama’s pretext for inaction

The Washington Post reports on the success achieved in Helmand province over the past three months since Marines poured into the area and began waging war in the manner prescribed in Gen. McChrystal. According to the Post, in the district of Nawa, troop strength increased from 100 to 1,000 and our forces concentrated on improving security for the local population instead of chasing the Taliban. Since then, the area has been transformed:

[T]he school has reopened, the district governor is on the job and the market is bustling. The insurgents have demonstrated far less resistance than U.S. commanders expected. Many of the residents who left are returning home, their possessions piled onto rickety trailers, and the Marines deem the central part of the town so secure that they routinely walk around without body armor and helmets.

The Post is quick to point out that there is no guarantee that the success in this part of Afghanistan can be replicated throughout the country, or even that it will persist in Helmand. Nawa is said to have a particularly competent district governor and the three tribes in the area are said to get along reasonably well. Moreover, according to the Post, it is not possible to match the civilian-troop ratio that exists in this area in other insurgent strongholds throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan without adding more than twice the number of troops McChrystal has requested.
Still, the success in Helmand would seem to demonstrate some important points. For one thing, it indicates that McChrystal has formulated the correct approach to counter-surgency in Afghanistan.
For another, it shatters the Obama adminstration’s pretext for hestitating to implement McChrystal’s recommendations. The administration claims that the corruption of the central government and the difficulties with the latest round of elections raises difficult questions as to whether McChrystal’s counter-insurgency can succeed. But these problems haven’t prevented it from succeeding in Helmand province. That’s because, as the Post emphasizes, local conditions are determinative — what happens in Kabul seems to matter little if at all.
The administration surely understands this reality. Yet it persists in asserting a bogus rationale for its hesitiation and inaction.


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