This past Monday, the same day that Gen. McChrystal’s confidential report was leaked, I had the pleasure of speaking with Major General John Kelly, USMC. Gen. Kelly is currently serving as deputy commanding General of Camp Pendleton. Prior to his current posting, he served three tours in Iraq, from the invasion until last year. During his most recent tour, he commanded the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar Province. Effectively, from February 2008 until February 2009 he was running the show in the province where the Sons of Iraq – or Awakening Councils – were born, and where the tide against the nationalist, Sunni insurgency began to break.
Gen. Kelly was remarkably candid throughout his discourse and, when asked whether we can win in Afghanistan, his answer was simultaneously cautious and unequivocal. Gen. Kelly averred at the notion of winning but he stated without equivocation that the ultimate endorsement of COIN strategy in Iraq – the sort of thing I’ve argued for in this space previously – is absolutely reproducible and necessary in Afghanistan. Which, unsurprisingly, is the sort of thing that Gen. McChrystal has argued for and is why the request for additional forces is necessary must be fulfilled. Additional forces are not sufficient, however; they must be tasked with protection of the population not simply hunt-and-kill operations, the commitment must be long-term, and the commitment of more troops must coupled with civil-society and works projects.