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Watch Sources on Afghanistan More Closely

Here is a follow-up to my earlier item on Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, the army reservist who spent some time last year traveling around Afghanistan helping to assess army equipment and has returned to write an article claiming senior commanders are lying when they say we are making progress.

This is hardly the first op-ed Davis has written. The others are collected on his own website, which suggests he is an aspiring blogger.

Part of what made the Armed Forces Journal article so interesting was that he suggested he was initially a supporter of the war but came away disillusioned. This was the third paragraph of his essay: “Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.”

But his own writings show this statement is highly disingenuous. All the way back in April 2009, Armed Forces Journal published an essay by then-Maj. Daniel Davis entitled “The Afghan Mistake: Sending More Troops Won’t Work.” In it, he argued:

Senior leaders, military experts and now President Barack Obama are arguing that we need to surge our troop level in Afghanistan to more than 60,000. We are told to be ready for hard fighting, that the Taliban has resurged and we must be prepared to continue fighting for years to come. But is a surge of troops in Afghanistan the best solution to this deteriorating situation? I argue that the answer is not simply “no,” but “absolutely no.”

As an alternative he suggested “that sometimes the most appropriate and effective military strategy the U.S. could pursue is to reject combat.” In other words, Davis was already predisposed to think the buildup of forces in Afghanistan was futile; it is hardly surprising what he saw merely reinforced his preconceptions.

The 2009 article also raises serious questions about his strategic judgment. He wrote that article at a time when the Taliban were making such rapid gains that Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned they could win within a year if the U.S. did not reinforce its forces. It remains a mystery how Davis’s preferred strategy of rejecting combat could possibly have been more effective than sending tens of thousands of troops to eject the Taliban from their strongholds.

That his judgments are highly dubious is only reinforced by reading another article on his website, published in the Washington Times on Dec. 14, 2007, called “A Third Way.” In it, he suggested an alternative to either “capitulation or war” with Iran. What alternative? He recommended to President Bush “that you announce a unilateral request for a cabinet-level dialogue with Iran; that you communicate a desire to have an open, unconditional conversation with their government to discuss issues of mutual concern.” This is pretty much the approach President Obama came into office with. He too thought that talks with Tehran could result in a breakthrough. Now he has been cruelly disabused of that illusion which many of us warned against at the time–but which Davis was a cheerleader for.

Is this really the man whose assessment of Afghanistan we should accept over the assessments of such storied leaders as David Petraeus and John Allen, who know far more than Davis does about the war in all its dimensions–and whose views of cautious optimism are reinforced by knowledgeable and experienced soldiers such as Major Fernando Lujan (whose work I have previously cited)? For opponents of the war, of course, any confirmation of their views is welcome, but they should look at the source a little more closely.

 



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