‘The distant rear of an army engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge correctly what is going on in front.”
The words are from Ulysses S. Grant’s recollections of the Battle of Shiloh. But they are being quoted to me by H.R. McMaster, arguably the Pentagon’s foremost warrior-scholar, to stress that the increasingly common American perception that the Afghan War is lost doesn’t jibe with what he witnessed during his recent 20-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“The difficulties are apparent,” says the two-star Army general, “but oftentimes the opportunities are masked.”
For a sense of those opportunities, consider some of the metrics of battle. When Gen. McMaster arrived in Afghanistan in July 2010—as President Obama’s surge reached full strength—enemy attacks numbered 4,000 a month. A year later, they had dropped to 3,250. In March, there were 1,700. Every month from May 2011 through March 2012 (the latest with available data) had fewer attacks than the same month the year before, the longest sustained reduction of the war.
I don’t always agree with MG McMaster, but I always pay attention to him. This is your must read article of the day.