February 28th, 2012
01:04 PM ET

What is winning in Afghanistan?

After seven days of protests, the death toll is estimated at 39, including at least nine people killed in an explosion near Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban took responsibility for the bombing, as well as the contaminated food at a U.S. base near the Pakistan border, saying it was in retaliation for the Quran burnings.

President Obama has said the burnings were an inadvertent error and apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The conflict in Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history and the U.S. government is trying to reassure Americans, and the Afghan government, about the security situation in the country.

Alex Berenson, who has been embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan and wrote the novel Shadow Patrol about his experiences, came OutFront and discussed the possibility of the U.S. ending its involvement in Afghanistan:

"I think we've learned just how fragile the gains we've made in the last few years are, and how easy - how likely it is that they'll be reversed once we pull out," said Berenson. "Which doesn't mean that we shouldn't pull out, it just means that we may have done as much we can do."

U.S. troops are scheduled to be in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2014, mostly due to the sorry state of Afghanistan's security forces.

This is particularly troubling, especially in light of the rising human and economic toll, including:

-1,895 killed

-15,000+ wounded

-$555 billion spent through 2012
-$85.5 billion spent on reconstruction in 2012

-$51 billion spent on training of Afghan security forces

Seth Jones, a senior political scientist with Rand Corporation and the author of Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qaeda After 9/11 says it's time for the mission in Afghanistan to evolve.

"I think the issue is what kind of model to we have going forward?" said Jones. "There is a field model of large American forces in Afghanistan. But I think there's a more useful model. Look at the way the U.S. operated in El Salvador, in Colombia, in the Philippines, in Indonesia, much smaller numbers and Special Operations and intelligence forces to train and work against units."

Jones also described what he would consider a "win" in Afghanistan, saying, "I think winning now, what it should be from an American interest is preventing an al Qaeda supported Taliban and Haqqani Network from taking over the government. That's a pretty modest goal and I think that's actually achievable in the long run, but it's not a strong, central government. It's not a democratic state per se."

Filed under: National Security
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Grupo

    The subtle wits of American leredas fly high and low – why? – that is because the past stands too deeply engrained in them and they want to live with it for their moments of excellence – Sarah Palin the excellent lady continues to give a plus to Obama on his creative charge and in that sense, she is indirectly doing good service for America. Republicans should be happy to learn this Truth that has brought America to the state of Light for Obama to pick on it.One thing good about American Democracy is it is “truly participating” and lasting with lessons for others to follow in modernity to tap blue horizons of life.Those blue horizons just do not end in economics that has many minds to tap the financial barometer of the country self educative in working of its affluent class and ordinary class both domestically and internationally relating to perfection with budgeting of money in economic plans that have been existing and are in the process to move charismatically with a tide over where bipartisan element also comes into play well integrated to test the mettle of the top leader of the country who has to stand over the continuous democratic element evolving of the country both in economic as well as inherently in spiritual terms for the good of the people at large mixing with the culture of exchange that has humanity behind it to survive?? By nature, the present President of America has that element in him – I should not be saying this but I am being inherently made to convey this as comment of exception for America and for Obama whose whole (Obama and his better half) stand as an extension through the ex Presidential candidate’s Charisma Of the Secretary Hillary Clinton that President Obama’s Charisma has selflessly absorbed for function in the cabinet gracefully for America and the world.That shows the humbleness of President Obama and maturity of Hillary Clinton of acceptance without a feeling of high and low of ego regarded as exceptional in Divinity.I was not supposed to make this comment and I have done so to urge the Republicans to accept their Light within of consensus through individual projections under control as Obama’s gesture of bipartisanship that will come to address.In short, this comment is all about health and health care where economics alone does not come into the picture with a rigorous analysis on it but should also extend as leverage to the person in play (Obama) who is also selflessly poised with corrections on it over the infra structure of it that he has proposed for approval as ego of his working element as the executive public ally chosen as the President that had appealed to the public at large voting even putting behind able leredas like McCain?George W Bush was the last to steer America into the Light over the past of America and that stands as the subtle truth even today as on date with Bill Clinton the ex President of America giving support through his excellent independent caliber for Obama ultimately to head the show of America that was time bound of its reality that sees no barriers and to which he accepted well in his individual capacity as the free lance ex President of America. I have to stop here because it basically conveys the essence of this communication for Obama today that he is today to execute for America and the world at large?? – I do not see ego hassles when I am on my draft of communications because they flow spontaneously through me in my absolute “switch off” capacity from the lower realms of life as a being of life for the Being that I am for life.I thank all for bearing with me or rejecting me at the mind levels because that is how I am poised for all life to relish me as food.

    April 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
  2. mikrik13

    No such thing as winning in Afghanistan. Never has been and there never will be. The American government is simply to stupid to learn from history.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  3. Sharon

    It is TIME for all troops to exit as quickly as possible. The entire region is practically burning–shooting any and every direction-bloodshed on more Ameriians do make them happy.

    The Quran (from what I have read) had secret messages in them-that is why they were burned. Plus, who directed the rebels to go through the trash at that particular location.

    With Iran admitting they have more capabilities than what they have shown or revealed to the public-it is an uncontrollable mess.

    We (the American people) should not allow our troops to caught in a trap-surrounded by many countries and their men who call our Soldiers ALIENS who need to leave their country.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:16 am | Reply
    • Happy Planter

      Winnng a war is always about taking something with you if you cannot take something you did not win. This new war by proxy and war by reconstruction do not work becaue you do not get something in return – no ROI. So, those who suggest we exit are right. However, to really win we need to take the land and repopulate like in the old days. That is, if you really want to win something.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
  4. Bremen

    What is winning in Afghanistan?
    An oxymoron.

    March 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  5. robert abruzzese

    WOW 1st time, A REAL democracy name & email required????? Im so nieve. MIllions for centuries ahve died in the name of some man writtren, greed, and power driven guilt trip called religion..Kill em or leave Enough already horahh

    March 1, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • robert abruzzese

      moderate this...all my dead brothers and sisters. moderate their dedication

      March 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
    • Sam

      I think the President has done the best job that can be expected in times such as these. Let's not fgeort that he assumed office amid the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. No one can dispute that. Since then, he has worked to keep the economy afloat, and that effort has been mostly successful. However, it can't be done without creating some kind of economic activity. Government spending is the natural way to do this, and several leading economists support this method.With regard to foreign policy, the President has worked to restore the image of America and re-establish our relationships around the world. This starts with respecting the sovereignty of all nations and recognizing that we all benefit from improved relations abroad. Amidst two wars, one of which was not necessary, the President has shown great strength and leadership in addressing the needs of our military. As a result, they are winning on these fronts and have a clear mission.Domestically, Pres. Obama has worked toward implementing the most significant health care legislation in over 40 years. The reason it has taken so long is because it is a controversial issue with wide-ranging opinions. When you get to the bottom of the legislation, however, it is not the vilified, death-panel-creating bill that is commonly advertised. Considering the continuum of international health systems ranging from socialistic government-employed health workers to the market oriented system of fully private health insurance, this bill is solidly in the middle. Important medical decisions are made between a patient and his/her physician, and those who make less than 400% of poverty will receive assistance to purchase a private, non-government health insurance policy.With elections coming up this November, it is likely that the power of Congress will shift in some way. It is unknown whether or not it results in a complete shift of majority. What I can say is that I hope for new party leadership on both sides of the aisle that focuses on solving problems together and acts in the common interest of all Americans. I believe that opinions will differ and debate will take place; however, I think the tone of this Congress' leadership has become far too distasteful, and that is part of the reason for America's frustration with Washington.

      April 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  6. jack leddy

    There is no such thing as winning in Afghanistan, We should get out now. Not one more American casualty or death. It is not a nation that we can prop up to fight terrorism. It is a geographical area populated by fighting primitive tribesman. If terrorists are using Afghanistan as a stageing area to launch attacks against USA, we should send in special forces or unmanned drones to take them out.

    March 1, 2012 at 3:20 am | Reply
    • tnt

      Yes. We need to get out ASAP.. Save money, Save Energy and SAVE LIVES

      March 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  7. Carlos

    Regardless the US wants to stay in or out of Afghanistan survival is the main issue for millions of Afghans in the south with no work no home and no family for a long long period of time and that makes them wide open for any body. For the sake of survival they could join the Taliban or Al Qaida or drug lords or warlords another words the problem is much much bigger after the invasion than what it used to be before specially with the negative influences of the past eleven years. It appears that NATO has created another monster.

    March 1, 2012 at 2:26 am | Reply
  8. jean

    It's getting very unsafe for our military who are stationed in Afghanistan. Afghan security forces that they are training can open fire at any moment right on the Army posts where our men are. As soon as we leave it will be taken over by Taliban. Why don't we just esculate the pull our and get our men and women out of harms way. They've done all they can.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
  9. james

    @1:17 she says "...shot by an Afghani" !

    Before trying miserably to answer a question like "What is winning in Afghanistan?", start with the basics. Such as knowing that the people of that country is called "Afghan", not "AfghanI".

    February 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  10. Arik Fetscher

    You want to know what winning in Afghanistan is about. It's about nation building starting with the dam project on the border with. India, it's about giving the people something of value to protect above basic subsistence. What's is winning in Afghanistan, it's the ability to have open dialogue on a pushtun or Kurdish economic zone. It's the ability for the rest of the middle east to have an opportunity to prove that a mix of monarchy and democracy can work and that doing what's in the people's interest is thebest and only path forward as it has always been and. Will always be. Declare the military victory with Syrian elections and assassin handover of power and focus on aid to the UN formation building projects and remove any possibility of aid stoppage for political purposes as short term politics usually hinders long term solutions. Bombing only works if there is something worth losing so duderino, you are wrong as there is no point in your claim. Again, I now have two UN resolutions to my credit and more than two presidential campaign victories so when you figure out that some stuff mater a monkey died so the jokes end and slinging poop like a chimp has little place in normal discourse you can discuss. Suffice to say Wayne, be it Bruce or not, swann killed a monkey with a banana acting as a pirate stealing ideas and going forward be it geithner or swann the world bank won't be run by a bush acolyte, but by someone who actually cares and has a passion for what they do. And Marie curie and the future of nuclear power does rest in France at ITER and the sooner funding is accelerated to start fission by the time fission reactors are decommissioned the better. Solve Irans crisis and in the US DNA and healthcare are linked to a cure for cancer fear and most diseases we fund it already along with business for the price of war we could have eradicated aids malaria and probably succeeded on cancer and fusion power but hey what's a better investment that or a war. A quest for cures wins in my book how about yours?

    February 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • Arik Fetscher

      Sooner fusion starts, even spell check on computers get it wrong sometimes. I could lace into some people now if I felt the urge but it's as republicans would say not my show not my ratings not my problem so in an effort to stop the use of free ideas as a result of crappy chimp like like monkey paybacks enjoy. Joy de vie, and I personally hope and believe that brevity without an editor is like a raindrop in the ocean, there but of little or no consequence. Enjoy the boards I'll finish my side of the bargain and change the world you honor yours.

      February 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  11. marcos

    To Mr. Jones. Just a suggestion.
    Each countries will present each own challenged so never compare Afghanistan with countries like Philippine and Indonesia. With that much money you could buy or install puppet government both in Philippine and Indonesia( many people think that US already did that). Colombia and El Salvador probably will be harder to handle but as long as their corrupt government exist everything is negotiable.

    February 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • Thais

      The American people have bcmeoe like Piranhas, feeding away non stop until their is nothing left.How can the american people ignore the energy that Obama created for America after wiining the elections, how can the American people(Rep.) ignore that reality? they felt it too! im sure, instead they translated it to fear, the only tactic they know Any how, I never felt or saw anything like it on that day of our Presidential victory!! not to mention how it was felt Worldwide!After 8 years of Bush creating that perfect gap between the elite and the middle class , poor people,creating a frightend, sick. less confident and uneducated America, he met his objective, Yet I can also understand how dificult it is for Republican Conservatives to step aside now, imagine having to give up 8 years of what the Bush admisntration has provided, it must be tough??? Its like teaching an old dog new tricks, obviously that old dog is not interested when he can simply be fed and lay all day long on that Big Ass Porch! Now President Obama has to keep the boat afloat for Republicans and Democrats and anyone in between to balance this nation that allows you to be all we can be!In 8 years I didnt see Bush perform any miracles! so why should Obama in just 1??? Let them man work and help thy neighbor!!!!

      April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  12. El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

    Winning in Afghanistan is leaving and letting Al Qaeda in so we could bomb them. You can't spend all day staring underneath the roof of your house killing one wasp here and there, but you can come back every once in a while to knock down the nests.

    February 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply

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