There have been three conflicting versions of the outcome of the United States’ surge in Afghanistan. One version is that the Taliban have been significantly degraded and have virtually been thrown on their back foot in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. A second version says that there has been progress in the war but the gains are not irreversible, meaning, the security situation continues to be fragile and the stalemate continues. The third version fundamentally questions the thesis that the surge made any real difference.
I subscribe to the third view and I am in good company. To my mind, the surge has not taken the US very far and that explains the spring in the steps of the Pakistani army chief Parvez Kayani. The French foreign minister Alain Juppe also holds the same view, as he openly admitted last Tuesday on a visit to Washington, as indeed most of the US’ NATO partners in Afghanistan, apart from Russia, China, Iran and the Central Asian countries – and, conceivably, Hamid Karzai himself.
It now appears that the figures that US commander General David Petraeus produced to substantiate his claim that surge made good headway were flawed and were even concocted figures. Petraeus’ claim was that he had captured 4000 Taliban prisoners during his arduous operations in the past several months. But now it seems 90% of them were not exactly Taliban at all but ordinary civilians whom the US troops apprehended mistakenly as ‘Taliban’. And more than 80% of the ‘POWs’ have been released once the US troops quickly realised their blunder.
The funny thing is that Petraeus probably knew all along that 80% of his “captured Taliban rank and file” were not exactly Taliban but he nonetheless went ahead with the claim so that his figures looked impressive when they were brought to Barack Obama’s notice. This war is becoming curiouser and curiouser. If you set aside wishful thinking, the picture is very grim for the US-led coalition. Which explains the spring in Kayani’s steps. Pakistan finds no reason to cave in to US pressure.