This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.
July 12, 2011, Washington, DC — In triumphant testimony before a joint committee of Congress in which he was greeted on both sides of the aisle as a conquering hero, General David Petraeus announced the withdrawal this month of the first 1,000 American troops from Afghanistan. "This is the beginning of the pledge the president made to the American people to draw down the surge troops sent in since 2009," he said, adding, "and yet let me emphasize, as I did when I took this job, that our commitment to the Afghan government and people is an enduring one."
Last July, when Gen. Petraeus replaced the discredited General Stanley McChrystal as Afghan war commander, he was hailed as an "American hero" by Senator John McCain, as "the most talented officer of his generation" by The New Yorker‘s George Packer, and as "the nation’s premier warrior-diplomat" by Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post—typical of the comments of both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives at the time. Petraeus then promised that the United States was in Afghanistan "to win."
In the year since, the Taliban insurgency has been blunted and "a tipping point has been reached," says a senior US military official with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, who could speak only on the condition of anonymity, in keeping with the policy of his organization. By every available measure—IEDs or roadside bombs, suicide attacks, Taliban assassinations of local officials, allied casualties and Afghan civilian casualties—the intensity of the insurgency has weakened significantly. The Afghan military and police, though not capable of taking the lead in the fighting in their own country, have been noticeably strengthened by American and NATO training missions. President Hamid Karzai’s government, still considered weak and corrupt, has succeeded in putting an Afghan face on the war.