As you’re evaluating reports over the weekend of military progress in Afghanistan, as recounted by General Petraeus in his briefing to the NATO summit in Lisbon over the weekend, here are two “contraindicators,” one from the Times and one from the Post.
From the New York Times, a response to Petraeus from an unnamed NATO official listening to Petraeus’s upbeat remarks:
General Petraeus, in his presentation, said that "we are beginning to see a return on our investment" and that ''we have broken the Taliban's momentum," according to a senior European official in the room. But the official added: "Is it true or not? I’m not so sure.' He said, "To many of us, it begins to have the ring of Vietnam," of confident military assessments that were not always accurate.
And from the Washington Post, a report on Afghan refugees fleeing the battle in Helmand:
Mohammad, a 36-year-old imam, said that during the Marine operation in Marja, his family hid in a hole, covered by boards, for 12 days as the Taliban fought Americans from house to house. This spring his mother-in-law's home in Marja was obliterated by an American bomb, he said, killing six of his relatives.
"It was impossible to stay," he said. "the house had collapsed."
"If I go back to Marja, I will have to pick a side," he said. "If I support the foreign forces, the Taliban will behead me. If I join the Taliban, I will also get killed."
For many, the lure to return remains strong. The rain seeps into Ahunzada's hovel. Without a steady income, he must hoard his supply of sugar and salt. With the coming cold, he dreads losing his other son. He lies on the floor at night and yearns to return to Helmand.
"I keep thinking I should go back to my village, either to cultivate opium or to stand alongside the Taliban. Then at least I will have money. I could send it to my wife and son," he said. "I think about this every night."
Yet he is not quite ready.
"When the infidels leave our province, on the next day I will go home."