On Friday, I
fell assbackwards into was asked to write an op-ed for The Guardian assessing the surge in Afghanistan. Before I tease you with the beginning of my piece in the shameful hope of getting you to visit the site and drive up page views so they ask me to write again, allow me to note the power of social media in the 21st century.
Ten years ago, hell, maybe even five years ago, someone like me is not asked to write an op-ed in a newspaper like The Guardian. They might publish something I submit, but they’re certainly not soliciting me. That’s because the editors don’t know who I am nor do they know what I write, if I write. But because a friend like Chris Albon pays me an enormous compliment on Twitter, likely directing an editor to my Twitter profile, which then leads him to Gunpowder & Lead, I receive an email asking me to write this piece.
Long story short: social media is an amazing tool and the great equalizer in the world of ideas.
But really, none of this is possible without my good friend Diana Wueger, who about a year ago asked me to write here because she thought I might have some interesting things to say. Thanks, Diana.
And now, to my op-ed:
As the Middle East erupted in violent protests two weeks ago, US efforts in Afghanistan sunk to new depths. There hasn’t been much good news out of Afghanistan since March 2003, but last week was particularly bad– highlighted by an audacious attack on Camp Bastion and the announcement that all combined patrols with Isaf and Afghan troops would be temporarily halted. Overshadowed by those incidents were two more insider attacks that killed six Isaf service members the same weekend. Indeed, good news is hard to find.
Reminiscent of similar attacks on Pakistani military bases, a small group of well-trained militants carried out the spectacular attack on Camp Bastion, one of Isaf’s largest bases in country. Fifteen well-armed militants disguised in US army uniforms breached the perimeter fence and split into three roving teams. The result: two US marines killed, including the Harrier squadron commanding officer, nine wounded, and eight AV-8B Harrier “jump jets” destroyed or damaged beyond repair. It was the largest, single-day loss of US military aircraft since Vietnam. At roughly $30m per copy, the loss of eight irreplaceable Harriers rendered VMA-211, the squadron hit, combat ineffective for the first time sinceDecember 1941.
Three days later, Isaf announced that most combined patrols with Isaf and Afghan troops would cease “until further notice”. Ostensibly done to limit Nato troop exposure to Afghans while anger over a disgusting anti-Islam video remains palpable, it’s hard to see this order as anything but a response to the growing insider threat – so-called green-on-blue attacks, when an Afghan soldier turns his weapon on his Nato partner. Thirty-six such attacks have killed 51 members of coalition forces this year, roughly 20% of all Isaf casualties. Given that Nato’s withdrawal strategy rests entirely on the premise of ensuring Afghan forces are capable of providing security on their own, and that as of April 2012, only 7% (pdf) of Afghan army units were rated as fully capable, the suspension of combined operations calls the entire strategy into question.
You can read the rest here.