Note: Please excuse any formating errors that may arise, I am on the other side of the world with little bandwith and mediocre computer skills (at best).
First, disclaimer #1: the following comments and opinion are neither indorsed by, nor reflect the policies of the US Government, the Dept of Defense, CENTCOM, ISAF, USACE, CJTF82 or any other pencil-necked bureaucrat involved with the conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Secondly, disclaimer #2: I work 10 hours a day, 6 1/2 days a week in a basement, with a narrow focus on a variety of relatively small construction projects in Central and North East Afghanistan – so I don’t know jack about either the actual strategic or tactical status of the conduct of the war, besides what I read in the same sources the rest of you do.
But here’s what I do know. There are two structural weaknesses, fundamental failures in fact, which will prevent success (notice I didn’t use the word ‘victory’ – a concept which seems to be foreign to the highest levels of our government). First, it is the policy of the State Department that the primacy of a strong central Afghan government in Kabul takes precedence over the desires of the Afghans who make up the outlying provinces and the many tribes who populate the provinces. That concept has never worked in the past for Afghanistan. The top-down rule by out-of-touch elites is not working out even in the US right now; how much more then, will a tribesman in Paktika or Nuristan Province resist such an arrangement? The military folks in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and the Special Operations personnel who are out in the provinces working with the tribes have the real word experience to know what approach will bring success, but their methods are either being ignored or undermined.
The other structural shortcoming is the fact that GEN McChrystal, the overall commander in Afghanistan, and the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, former GEN Eikenberry – do not see eye to eye on the proper methods to conduct the war. This is in contrast to the excellent working relationship GEN Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker enjoyed during the time of the surge in Iraq. Both those men were on the same page as to the strategy required to win in Iraq, and in their dealings with Iraqi leaders. That is not the case here in Afghanistan. Apparently, GEN McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry agree on very little, and that has been the case since at least the time GEN McChrystal first proposed his version of a surge in Afghanistan. These men are unequally yoked for this mission, and President Obama set it up that way – because he knew from the beginning their differences when he put them in their positions.
There you have it, my two cents worth. Investigate and judge for yourself if what I have said is in fact the case. I’m just a retired 1SG sitting in a Kabul basement all day. I don’t know jack.