Brian Glyn Williams, a University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth professor of Islamic history who worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009, witnessed how the rotation affected operations. He was working with an information operations cell in Kabul when half the team rotated out. “We had personal relations with the gray beards,” Williams said, referring to Afghan elders. “We sort of had a rapport with them. A rhythm. It took a long time to build up that institutional memory for our team. But part of my team switched to Iraq. You’re calibrated to work in one environment, and then they’re deployed to Iraq. All of that institutional knowledge was flushed.” The United States, in short, fell into a pattern of one-year deployments, meaning the war started over every 12 months. America’s longest war turned into 18 one-year wars.Reading the article, particularly that paragraph, reminded me of how we lost the war in Vietnam, and didn't win in Korea. The same mistakes, the same NIH bright new ideas and concepts, only to be replaced by the bright new idea of the next bright new big shot commander seeking glory.
(Can you tell I'm bitter.)
I wasn't blogging in Oct 2001, so I have to rely on memory. I think I was dubious about going into Afghanistan, remembering all the history of that country. But I recognized the feeling in the country so doing something violent was inevitable. I was surprised by the ease with which the military gained dominance in the country. Foolishly, like the rest of the country and the Bush administration, I ignored the long term.
At this point I'm somewhat haunted by the memory of the Nixon-Kissinger negotiations over Vietnam and the eventual outcome there. If the same occurs in Afghanistan, I only hope we're as willing to admit refugees from Afghanistan as we were from Vietnam.