Two years ago, the following cartoon summed it up pretty well.
Of course, in the two years after that cartoon was published, Osama bin Laden was killed.
The two years since the cartoon were also the years of the "surge." That phase ended, and US troop strength in Afghanistan is back to pre-surge levels. What is the verdict?
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.FUBAR!
That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room. According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military — but not all — the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum.
Of course, that’s not ISAF’s spin. The command notes that enemy attacks from January to August 2012 are slightly lower, by 5 percent, from that period last year; and that the past two Augusts show a reduction in attacks of 30 percent. But the more relevant comparison is to 2009, when Afghanistan looked like such a mess that President Obama substantially increased troop levels. And compared to 2009, Afghanistan does not look improved.
This term, I have quite a few students in my classes who are veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. If not for the asymmetric relationship forced upon us in the classroom, I would so much like to ask them for their honest assessment of whether it was worth it.