January 4th, 2010
08:50 AM ET

What does winning look like in Afghanistan?

Editor’s Note: U.S. Army Cpt. Brandon Anderson is a Company Commander in 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, deployed to southern Afghanistan. A 2003 graduate of West Point, he is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are the author’s, and do not reflect the official view of the U.S. Department of Defense.

U.S. Army Cpt. Brandon Anderson on patrol in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Cpt. Brandon Anderson on patrol in Afghanistan

In February of 2008, I found myself riding in the back of an ANA ambulance with a wounded Afghan teenager. Shrapnel from a suicide bomber outside of Kandahar City had lodged itself in his neck. He was bleeding while trying to scream. I was holding him and trying to keep him calm, while the driver kept looking backwards toward me, as if to ask, “Is he going to die”? I could not answer that, because I did not know myself. What I did know was that a young man had been maimed, and I could not understand why.

Presently, the American people and Army, along with their allies in Europe, Asia and the Mideast are grappling with a hybrid of insurgency and terrorism. The al-Qaeda terrorists who have struck America, Britain, Spain, and other nations have embedded themselves within the Taliban insurgent network that spans Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not a war that can be decided in the outcome of a single battle, or through the body counts and hilltops that are so germane to a conventional fight. Rather, the present conflict is focused on the people - their security, unity and support. Western armies are incredibly good at fighting and winning the pitched battles that their fathers and grandfathers fought and won in the Gulf War and World War II. Presently, al-Qaeda and those who protect them have neither the capability nor resources to compete with the West in tank-on-tank conventional wars. As a result, their approach has evolved. FULL POST

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