In any war there is often a disconnect between on-the-ground reality and perceptions back home. But rarely has there been such a yawning chasm as with Afghanistan today.
Back home, the general feeling is that the war effort is either failing or idling in neutral. A casual newsreader may note the recent suicide bombing of an armored NATO bus in Kabul, a terrorist assault on the U.S. embassy in September, high-profile assassinations (including that of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani), some of President Karzai's disparaging comments about the United States—and not much else. In Washington all the talk is about how quickly we can withdraw—not about how to achieve "victory," a word that has been conspicuously missing during much of the public debate over this 10-year-old conflict.
And on the ground? A seven-day visit to Afghanistan in late October, taken along with other security analysts at the invitation of General John Allen, the senior American and NATO commander, reveals that U.S. troops are fighting with wholehearted dedication—and, at least in the south, enjoying considerable success. If the United States is indeed on the way out in Afghanistan, as the political class in Washington now assumes (perhaps rightly), nobody has bothered to inform the troops. They are still risking their necks every day in order to defeat the enemy.