Afghanistan has nearly 30 million people. How can an American force of roughly 100,000 secure them all? The question tends to bring perplexed looks, or even grimaces, meaning — politely and carefully — take that question upstairs.So the "strategy" basically is to train a native army to occupy their own country. Okay, well, it worked for the Brits, for a time, in a different albeit nearby country in a different albeit not-really-so-long-past age. But the natives prove untrainable; or, um, they move to their own mysterious agenda. I love that little detail, "or to the bazaar." "The generals" remain uncomprehending. Don't these people want to build a military occupation of their own country?
Again, the generals have an answer. The Afghan military and police are growing, and in a few years could be roughly three times the size of the NATO forces, they say.
But the escalating numerical projections, which have grown each year as the United States has deepened its involvement in the war, have yet to undo these forces’ reputation for poor initiative, corruption, marginal skills and an enduring dependency on foreign supervision for everything from resupply and fire support to actions that should be routine, like standing post.
Many American officers, year in and year out, describe a persistent trait visible to anyone who visits almost any line unit for an extended time. Afghan units are supposed to be preparing to take over security. Yet they are often unwilling to set out on independent patrols, beyond trips back and forth between their own positions, or to the bazaar. They remain largely a tag-along force.
You read things like this, and you start to wonder, like Starbuck, if the leviathan isn't just a dumb brute after all.