In the starkest terms to date, President Karzai said that the visibility and intensity of US/NATO operations must be reduced and that US SOF night raids end. “It’s not desirable for the Afghan people either to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly,” he said. These were not off the cuff remarks, but instead provided to reporters in an hour-long sit-down interview (an exasperated General Petreaus responded – see associated news report). Karzai continues to highlight that US/NATO operations are exacerbating the war fatigue Afghans experience daily.
While US/NATO continues to make the claim for a 2014 transition date for full security and the end of combat operations, Karzai increasingly appears to support accelerating the pace of withdrawals and the transition. His avowed “skepticism” of US policy in Afghanistan will only complicate the next two weeks of debate and the ongoing review, while ground commanders and SOF units continue “endless” operations (to include night raids).
Karzai did express gratitude for the American support Afghans have received, but questioned the administrations motives. If this is the “status” of where the US/NATO-Afghanistan relationship, where the President questions “motives”, we have failed in our strategic communications.
“Astonishment and disappointment”? Hurting the war effort? “Undermining General Petreaus?” Hypothetical references to “an inability to continue US operations in the face of Karzai’s remarks”? The remarks were not a “no-vote confidence of General Petreaus.”
It is becoming increasingly harder to see the path to any positive outcome in Afghanistan after this recent public rift (of many) between President Karzai and General Petreaus. The bottomline is that US/NATO policy objectives are at odds. The US/NATO mission of COIN, with its requisite resources and timeframe, cuts against the grain of Afghan sensibilities, while the reality on the ground is that any progress is not only not welcome but appears counter-productive. Worse yet is that the senior commander and President Karzai continue to raise the stakes of any effective outcome with increasingly public disagreements. Nothing good can come of this.
Marines deploy for seven-month stints and rotate in and out Afghanistan under a tight set of conditions and protocol. It has become clear that the most dangerous time for any unit is during this transition period as the new unit adapts to the situation on the ground and the redeploying unit thins their lines. As this report highlights, even after repeated deployments, this transition often leads to tragedy – but in this instance the Marine unit applied lessons learned to overcome their losses and improve their tactical posture.
As in every conflict, the enemy gets a vote. Here, in vicinity of Patrol Base Fulod, the enemy has shown its ingenuity and tenacity by improving their tactics and procedures while engaging Marines – and this should not be a surprise.