Heavy fighting continues in Kunduz, despite assurances from the Pentagon and Kabul that the city had been retaken by forces loyal to the Afghan central government:
The reports from Kunduz contradicted testimony by the American military commander, Gen. John F. Campbell, before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on Tuesday. He told the panel that most of the city had been retaken from the Taliban, and that the continued fighting had been relegated to isolated pockets in the city as the insurgents “for the most part melted away, left the city.”
Public assessments issued by Afghan leaders on Tuesday mostly lined up with General Campbell’s portrayal. “The enemy was pushed out of the city yesterday, the Afghan security forces, especially the Afghan National Army, recaptured the city yesterday,” said Lt. Gen. Afzal Aman, director of operations for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
But the accounts of many Kunduz residents on Tuesday greatly differed, as did details from senior Afghan military officers who spoke off the record because they did not want to publicly contradict government spokesmen who were also claiming improvement in the city.
Read the whole thing — which is redolent of Vietnam in all the worst ways.
It was possible to make sense of the Bush Administration’s policy in Afghanistan. We maintained enough of a presence to “mow the lawn” as necessary, to keep the terror/Taliban presence at a manageable level. That there was no endgame for the Bush policy gave Senator Barack Obama the opportunity to declare that Afghanistan was “the right war,” and that as President he’d fight it to its conclusion.
Once in office, Obama put into place a surge which hardly surged at all — the buildup was too slow to have the same psychological effects as Bush’s Iraq surge. Making thing worse, as noted here years ago, Obama’s surge came with an expiration date, allowing the Taliban to decide the tempo of battle, knowing just how much punishment they could take before the inevitable drawdown began.
Once the buildup was complete, the Obama strategy was typically Obama — nuanced in the extreme. As Richard Fernandez noted this morning:
David Ignatius, writing in Real Clear Politics, provides a glimpse into the kind of template the Obama administration regards as a solution. He describes Washington’s efforts to create in Afghanistan and South Asia a stable division of spoils where power, influence and money are shared to the satisfaction of all. Then with everyone bought off, peace will return.
Peace has hardly returned to Kunduz — in the north of Afghanistan, where the Taliban were never strong, not even during their 1990s heyday. That there is real fighting going on there shows the futility of trying to “divide the spoils” with religious fanatics. That the Pentagon is in official denial shows how thoroughly politicized the military has again become.
Bush knew how to keep the fighting in Afghanistan at a manageable level, but not how or when to get us out. Obama never wanted anything but out, but failed to get anything for the additional blood and treasure he sacrificed there.