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Judging McChrystal's War

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
June 23, 2010
New York Times

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On Tuesday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, was called back to Washington to explain disparaging comments he and his aides made to a Rolling Stone reporter about senior administration officials. The general's ill-advised remarks, which have prompted him to prepare a letter of resignation, will only feed the general sense of despair and impatience that Americans seem to feel about our progress in Afghanistan.

When President Obama announced last year the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the expectation was that progress would be as rapid as it seemed to be during our earlier surge in Iraq, where violence fell more than 70 percent from 2007 to 2008. But only about 21,000 of the reinforcements have arrived; the rest won't be in place until the end of August. Any suggestion that the war is lost is ludicrously premature, and it could prove just as wrong as the naysaying in early 2007 that the Iraq surge had failed at a time when it had barely begun.

It's important to remember that in Iraq the turnaround didn't occur overnight: as a direct consequence of the surge, April, May and June 2007 were among the highest-casualty months of the war. So, too, we are now seeing more killed and wounded among coalition forces and Afghans. Increased casualties are obviously not good news, but they aren't necessarily a sign of impending disaster. They could be the price of victory.

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