I don't know how I missed this news yesterday but I did - from the NYTimes:
And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general — and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.
The current response from his chain of command has been subdued but I am unsure how it can remain that way. If what LTC Davis says is true, the US Military at it's highest levels has been participating in a cover up of extreme proportions:
At home, he pored over the statements of military leaders, including General Petraeus. He found them at odds with what he had seen, with classified intelligence reports and with casualty statistics.
“You can spin all kinds of stuff,” Colonel Davis said. “But you can’t spin the fact that more men are getting blown up every year.”
LTC Davis published his thoughts in the Armed Forces Journal so that all of us can read, in a non-classified article, some of the concerns he brought forth to Senators and staff.
The most striking sentence in the entire piece is this:
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.
He goes on to say:
I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.
I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.
From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.
He tells us that reports filed by himself and others, though classified, would serve to "illuminate the gulf between conditions on the ground and official statements of progress." He then gives unclassified, anecdotal evidence to back up his claims.
With shades of Vietnam, LTC Davis then asks that ever important question:
How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.
I could wish that what LTC Davis is saying is a big lie, but I have a feeling that he is telling the truth. Others have been collecting evidence as well and the picture in Afghanistan seems more likely to be one of a corrupt Afghani government, an American military that has a confused mission that local governments have a hard time understanding, and people that just want to be finished with war.
If what LTC Davis says is true, the Obama administration has trouble on it's hands. Either President Obama has a lack of control over his military officers and they feel comfortable lying to him or he understands that his military officers are creating 'spin' to make the situation in Afghanistan supportable. The only way either of these are not true is if his military officers have been lying to themselves as well - that our senior military officials are somewhat delusional about the state of this war.
In any case, I ask for one thing and one thing only. Bring our troops home.
LTC Davis has posted a video on youtube, or a slideshow with moments of video, in an attempt to introduce us to the daily life of our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan. What comes across to me is the stark beauty of the country and the loneliness of serving in a war zone. But then I imagine myself as an Afghani woman and seeing these guys walking over a hillside into my village. I wonder if I would great them with joy or with sadness, with pride or with fear.