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An Afghan War ‘Turning Point’ Revue

The Senate Armed Services Committee is about to hear testimony from Gen. David Petraeus. Not sure why Sen. Carl Levin found it necessary right now to say our troops’ “morale is high,” when by every account out there today, the opposite is true. No one really listens to the grunts though. Instead, we will hear Petraeus, for the umpteenth time, tell us that there has been “progress” but yet a “struggle” and further “challenges” lie ahead. He will likely talk about the “turning point” that was reached with the aid of last year’s 30,000 troop “surge” and the continued flow of U.S resources. He will then ask for more of those resources in order to keep the “momentum” going, because, all progress “is reversible.” We need to have patience (John McCain just said so). In other words, man up!

Tired of the hooey? Think you’ve heard this tune too many times before? You have. Joshua Foust over at  Registan.net did the legwork and actually put together a little compilation of the war’s greatest “turning point” hits:

  • February 20, 2010: “Western officials believe that a turning point has been reached in the war against the Taliban, with a series of breakthroughs suggesting that the insurgents are on the back foot for the first time since their resurgence four years ago.”
  • August 31, 2009: “Monday marks the end of August, a month with both good and bad news out of Afghanistan — and the approach of a key turning point.
  • February 6, 2008: “But the ties that bind NATO are fraying badly – and publicly – over just how much each member state wants to commit to turning Afghanistan around. ‘It’s starting to get to a turning point about what is this alliance about,’ says Michael Williams, director of the transatlan- tic program at the Royal United Services Institute in London.”
  • July 23, 2007: “Taken together these may reflect a turning point in how the war in Afghanistan is to be waged.”
  • September 12, 2006: “The Afghan front is at a critical turning point that imperils many of the hard-fought successes of the early phase of the conflict and the prospects for snaring bin Laden.”
  • September 22, 2005: “Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s foreign minister, called the recent parliamentary elections ‘a major turning point‘ on his country’s path to democracy.”
  • January 27, 2004: “A statement from U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called the enactment of the constitution a ‘turning point for the Afghan nation.’”
  • February 26, 2003: “The growing aggressiveness by guerrillas is a relief for US forces, who greet the possibility of a real engagement with the Taliban as a possible turning point in the war. ‘We want them to attack us, so we can engage them and destroy them,’ says one Special Forces soldier from the US firebase at Spin Boldak, who took part in the initial firefight that led to Operation Mongoose.
  • December 2, 2002: “But in ‘Bush at War’ there’s a glaring omission. Woodward misses the turning point in the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda forces. It’s as though the most important scene had been left out of a movie, say, where Clark Kent turns into Superman.”

From Foust:

“The sad fact of the matter is, the one year where there aren’t a bunch of stories about turning points in the war in Afghanistan is 2001, which is also the one year when there probably were a number of turning points in the war. That was the year the U.S. had the opportunity to corner the destroy al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but it chose not to. That was the year the U.S. had swept aside the Taliban and could have chosen to begin an era of responsible Afghan rule, but it chose not to. That was the year everything happened.”


about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a contributing editor at TAC and co-host on the Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Follow her on Twitter @VlahosAtQuincy.

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