25 September 2011

Perception is Reality

What's important in Afghanistan? Perception. It's kind of important back home, too.

Like insurgents in other wars, the Taliban seeks to strike at public perceptions, to sow doubts about the ability of the Afghan government to provide security or broker a peace deal, said Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution.
She said that "the assassination tactic is precisely the most rational policy for the Taliban right now and they would be crazy to be mounting attacks with massive forces because they would likely be slaughtered."
Battlefield victories were not the ultimate aim and instead the insurgents were pursuing assassinations to "maintain pressure and fear," she said.
"It's not just the assassination of very visible people but assassinations of district officials or people who cooperate with the US government or the (Hamid) Karzai government," she said. "And it has a profound effect on how people feel about their security."
The killing of Rabbani, who was leading Kabul's peace efforts, put the Pentagon in a difficult position, as it was clearly a setback but Panetta and other top officials warned against overstating its effect.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who advised the US commander in Afghanistan in 2009, said Friday the Obama administration needed to hold a frank public debate about war aims instead of engaging in "constant spin."
US troops have made headway in the Taliban's former bastions in the south and taken out key insurgents, according to Cordesman. But the Afghan government remained anemic and it was not at all clear its security forces could hold on to cleared areas as NATO-led forces gradually withdraw through 2014.
"We may be winning tactically, but insurgents may be winning a battle of political attrition that will ultimately be strategically decisive," Cordesman wrote in Friday's Washington Post.

By: Brant

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