January 14, 2013 | Quote

The Last Men

Eleven years later, almost to the week, Griffis’s time in Afghanistan, along with that of the last of the additional forces sent there by President Obama in early 2010, came to an end. Charlie Troop pulled out of Giro as Ghazni Province was transferred from the 82nd Airborne to a smaller follow-on unit—and last month the district was transitioned fully to Afghan responsibility. I recently met with Giro’s representative in the provincial council, Mohamad Nadir Girowal, to see how things were going. According to Girowal, the Afghan soldiers and police no longer leave their bases. The roads are more dangerous than ever. In Pana, the clinic, school, cell-phone tower, and bazaar remain out of service. And Nuradin finally acquiesced to Taliban threats and closed his shop. “The Americans did not affect the lives of the people in Giro at all,” Girowal said. “Everything is as it was before.”

It would be nice to be able to view Giro as anomalous—an isolated backwater where the surge failed. But the security situation throughout much of Afghanistan stands in stark relief to President Obama’s characterization of victory. This November, the most recent month for which statistics are available, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks was significantly higher than in November 2009, the month before Obama announced the surge. And recently, an exhaustive analysis of available data—including the metrics used to justify claims of progress—led The Long War Journal to conclude that “the overall level of violence in Afghanistan remains much worse today than it was prior to the surge.” Meanwhile, a wave of “insider-attacks,” perpetrated by members of the Afghan security forces, has killed 60 coalition troops this year (compared with 35 last year). Leon Panetta has described these killings as “kind of a last-gasp effort” of the Taliban to resist their inevitable demise. He also remarked, “It’s near the end of their effort to really fully fight back.” It’s hard to say which is worse: our president and defense secretary deliberately misrepresenting the situation in Afghanistan to such a degree, or our president and defense secretary genuinely misunderstanding it to such a degree.

In November, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, hosted a memorial ceremony for Dustin Gross, Chase Marta, and Jacob Schwallie. All of Charlie Troop, including Griffis, Moe, and Rogers, attended. I talked to Rogers by phone a few days later. When I told him that the Americans had pulled out of Giro, he seemed surprised. “They can’t survive there on their own,” Rogers said of the Afghan soldiers and police who were left behind. “They absolutely cannot survive.”

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