It’s that simple. Kill the enemy, or retreat and fortify. It makes no sense to sacrifice blood and treasure without intending to finish the job you came to do.
We’ve done neither since President Obama announced the “surge”—and subsequently undermining it by announcing a withdrawal date—opting to stay in Afghanistan to train the enemy. It’s worse than being defeated. It’s being defeated and continuing to take on casualties after the fact.
In that sense, the murder of Major General Harold Greene is, to borrow from Jake Tapper, senseless. More senseless, indeed, than the disastrous Operation Red Wings. Victory in Afghanistan was still possible then, the will to win still present. The outcome was not yet determined. In Greene’s case, it was. Afghanistan is already reverting to type as the last American troops withdraw.
“We’ve got our teeth in the enemy’s jugular now, and we’re not going to let go.” –General David Petraeus, Jan. 19, 2011, overestimating America’s will to win
A design flaw of General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy is that it leaves the enemy largely unmolested. It’s a necessary flaw, because insurgents are impossible to distinguish from civilians. Victory requires the constant projection of a superior, peacekeeping force. Withdrawal is to concede the country to the insurgents, who’ve been hiding in the woodwork. It’s a defeat 4 years in the making.