Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.
Read the entire thing if you want some unvarnished and depressing truth.
Afghanistan was always a horrendous challenge and the prospects for anything you could legitimately call success were low. We should have left immediately after toppling the Taliban in 2002 and dropped a few planeloads of leaflets saying "Live free, but if you let al Qaeda screw around again, we will bury you. Rubble doesn't make trouble". But we didn't and so the attempt to turn a third (or fourth) world hell hole into a civilized society began. It has failed and will serve as an object lesson. It doesn't necessarily mean that nation-building, counterinsurgency and stability operations do not work. But it sure shows that you cannot build a nation out of a collection of tribes with absolutely no idea what a nation is. Doubly so, when the next door neighbor foments the insurgency, and supports it with materiel, men and mission support.
Obama used this war as a way to fulfill his campaign smack talking and avoid the all too easy and accurate view that he didn't have the stomach, strategic vision or knowledge to run our national security affairs. His misguided attempt to derail the peace in Iraq and his faux surge (complete with withdrawal date) in Afghanistan have sadly proven that he was simply campaigning not commanding. There may have been no way to win a real victory in Afghanistan, but then why reinforce your position without any real resolve to try? The answer is politics and the man who ordered it owes an accounting to the men and women, and their families, that he sent there.