“Groundhog War”

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Military scholar and Marine combat vet Bing West looks at Afghanistan’s future in the just-released September/October issue of Foreign Affairs through the prism of two recent documentaries, Restrepo and Armadillo, and doesn’t like what he sees:

Taken together, the films show how advanced technology and scholarly thinking do not always translate into victory on the battlefield. U.S. and NATO soldiers have access to precision firepower and astonishing technologies that can track anyone moving. They are akin to starship troopers set down on an alien planet where the tribes are a thousand years less advanced. At the beginning of the documentaries, the soldiers dutifully proclaim a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes winning the commitment of local tribes. Yet in practice, the films show the reality of grim daily patrols focused on confronting an invisible enemy, while the villagers stand on the sidelines. Neither documentary suggests that such U.S. and NATO patrols, as the fulcrum for counterinsurgency, result in any tribal support for the Afghan government in Kabul.