Don't get me wrong, the objectives might be laudable - stop the opium trade, starve the Taliban, wean the Afghans off these terrorists.
It does seem to have been a strange way of going about things though. Why, when you're tied up in Iraq and faced with Iran, would you commit troops to Afghanistan, where no invading, non-Muslim nation has ever got anywhere for long?
Is it really a belief in the invincibility of Uncle Sam?
On the ground in the south, the poppies are still supplying 90% of the world's heroin, Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is "sometimes ridiculed as the "mayor of Kabul"," having little influence outside the capital and the Taliban have been barely dented in overall strategic terms.
Now there's a new strategy:
"Our focus is not the Taliban," Brigadier General Lawrence Nicholson was quoted as telling his officers before they moved into Helmand. "Our focus must be on getting this government back on its feet. We're doing this very differently," Nicholson said, according to the Washington Post. "We're going to be with the people. We're not going to drive to work. We're going to walk to work."
What's 20 000 troops, too late, for goodness sake? If you're going to invade another nation, for whatever reason, you first make sure you're not headed for an economic recession, you deploy half a million and you give them the best equipment and support. You get in, achieve your targets and then depart.
This is not what the U.S. policy is. The policy is clearly to maintain a long term presence in troublespots such as Iraq and Afghanistan, with Iran possibly on the agenda, in order to gradually win the people over against the 'terrorists'. And they hope to do this on a skeletal army presence.
Also, the U.S. doesn't have a great track record of propping up puppet governments when there is a powerful enemy using guerilla tactics and they don't have a great track record of winning over locals. One would have thought Vietnam would have passed through the minds of the Pentagon and the White House.
All that is happening is that the few troops over there are overstretched and couldn't cope with a coordinated drive by the whole Taliban if they wanted to. The assault so far on the poppy fields has put farmers out of business but left the Taliban largely intact, regrouped and with connections within Pakistan and elsewhere.
Russia was no great shakes itself in Afghanistan but I do recall a couple of years ago, discussing this with a public official who smiled at the U.S. strategy. He said, "Everyone's against the U.S. Whoever is the enemy of the U.S. will gain sympathy from other nations and from China."
Let's face it - it's the U.S. [who seem to think they're doing it alone], Britain, Canada and Australia [excuse me if I left out some other commonwealth nations] against the rest. The targets and the strategy, particularly at a time of internal economic stringency, need to be thought through far more clearly.
I didn't realize that EU Referendum was also covering the issue. Well worth a read.