U.S. President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to ‘finish the job’ of an unpopular and costly eight-year war in Afghanistan, and officials said he could announce an increase of around 30,000 troops next week.
Okay. If by “finishing the job” he means achieving the core goals he set in his March White Paper — “disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, “promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan” etc. — I think it’s safe to say that’s not gonna happen. He simply won’t have enough time on his clock. According to David Kilcullen’s recent estimate, even failing counterinsurgency campaigns usually take 9-11 years. By my count, that would put us way past the end of Obama’s second term.
To realise just how hard this stuff is, look at the massive international efforts in Bosnia and DR Congo. Fourteen years after the war, Bosnia is still beset by ethnic divisions and hatred, according to The Washington Post:
In June, the international envoy who oversees the rebuilding of Bosnia invoked emergency powers that he said were necessary to hold the country together. Although U.S. and European officials have been trying to get Bosnia to stand on its own feet for years, many Bosnian leaders say the only thing that can permanently fix their gridlocked government is for Washington to intervene — again — and rewrite the treaty that ended the war in 1995.
In the DRC, more than 4 million people have died since 1996, yet by its own admission the United Nations has failed miserably in its efforts to bring about peace:
The massive U.N. peacekeeping effort in eastern Congo has failed to deliver a knockout blow to Rwandan rebels while local insurgents have seized new territory under its nose, United Nations experts said Wednesday.
Far from resolving the root causes of the violence, the presence of the world’s biggest peacekeeping mission has aggravated the conflict in North and South Kivu provinces, the report seen by Reuters Wednesday said.