Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Washington Post senior correspondent and recipient of the 2007 Ridenhour Book Prize for Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, writes about the end of the Afghan surge for the new issue of Foreign Policy.
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. You'd be forgiven if you didn't notice. There was no proclamation of success from the White House, no fanfare at the Pentagon, no public expression of gratitude from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It fell to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was traveling in New Zealand, to announce that the last of the 33,000 surge troops, dispatched by President Obama in late 2009 at the behest of his military commanders, had left Afghanistan.
In stating that U.S. troop levels had dropped to 68,000, Panetta told reporters traveling with him that "this is an opportunity to recognize that the surge did accomplish its objectives." A few days earlier, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, stated that the surge was "an effort that was worth the cost."
Chandrasekaran, whose new book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, was published in June. It traces Chandrasekaran's journey to Afghanistan in the wake of President Obama's order of the troop surge and increase of aid to that country. The veteran reporter soon found "the effort sabotaged not only by Afghan and Pakistani malfeasance but by infighting and incompetence within the American government: a war cabinet arrested by vicious bickering among top national security aides; diplomats and aid workers who failed to deliver on their grand promises; generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places; and headstrong military leaders who sought a far more expansive campaign than the White House wanted. Through their bungling and quarreling, they wound up squandering the first year of the surge."
"For the surge and its accompanying countersurgency strategy to prevail in Afghanistan," Chandrasekaran writes in his Foreign Policy piece, "four main things needed to occur: The Afghan government had to be a willing partner, the Pakistani government had to crack down on insurgent sanctuaries on its soil, the Afghan army had to be ready and willing to assume control of areas that had been cleared of insurgents by American troops, and the Americans had to be willing to commit troops and money for years on end."
The author goes through these four points, analyzing both the victories and defeats that resulted from the uptick of troops and aid, and asking whether the president should have done anything different back in 2009. To read his conclusion, and the rest of the article, visit the Foreign Policy website.
Chandrasekaran won the 2007 Ridenhour Book Prize for Imperial Life in the Emerald City, an exemplary work of reportage that takes us behind the barricaded walls of Baghdad’s Green Zone, in which Chandrasekaran chronicles how the Coalition Provisional Authority’s bureaucratic arrogance and ineptitude led to disastrous postwar planning and directly contributed to the chaos that we witness in Iraq today.
The nomination forms for the 2013 Ridenhour Prizes are now available here; the nomination deadline is December 1, 2012.