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May. 25 2010 - 9:18 am | 329 views | 1 recommendation | 3 comments

Afghanistan: ‘A bleeding ulcer’

Here’s an update on the progress of the Marjah offensive, straight from the mouth of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

“This is a bleeding ulcer right now,” McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.

“You don’t feel it here,” he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, “but I’ll tell you, it’s a bleeding ulcer outside.”

That’s from the excellent Dion Nissenbaum for McClatchy.

I’ve been working on a rather lengthy Afghanistan piece that should be out in the next couple of weeks, in which Gen. Stanley McChrytsal plays a big role. About Marjah–I’ve been hearing criticisms that the expectations were too high, and the military, in a sense, oversold its importance.

There is also the bigger strategic question: why are we fighting for Helmand? It’d be like occupying the U.S. and fighting over Arkansas. No offense, Little Rock. But, I’ve been told that even when McChrystal got to Kabul last year, and the Helmand operation had started, there were serious doubts about whether or not Helmand was worth it. Regardless, they went ahead with Marjah, thinking that it actually was an important piece of the country to take control over.


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  1. collapse expand

    Mr. Hastings,

    I believe that the current US strategy is to knock the Taliban down (not out), create the semblance of control for Kabul (maybe even get the Taliban to the negotiating table – nice but optional), declare victory, and get the hell out. Within that strategy in mind, the current campaign makes perfect sense. They are hitting the Taliban & friends hard, inflicting some serious casualties, and creating the veneer of success. The only question is can they keep appearances up long enough to declare “victory” because the the “getting the hell out of there” part is already programmed.

  2. collapse expand

    The most dangerous facet of any reporter/journalist is their lack of knowledge. Michael Hastings, like everyone that I have read (as journalist go) stated the USA “Lost in Vietnam”. The goal was to stop the southern movement of communism. It appears that few people notice the number of articles for sale at Wal-Mart that are labeled “Made in Vietnam”? What happened to Communism? Where did it go? If you are truly a good writer, I ask “Why must you use the “F” word?” Are you such a poor writer that you are not able to convey meaning or paint a picture in words that you must resort to the use of the “F” word. Has your pain and anger over-shadowed your ability to be a recorder of the actual happenings? Sad to hear of your loss.
    I am a Vietnam Vet. 61st AHC in 1969. I have suffered loss for all of my 60 years and it is tough to handle. I recently started going back to school and learned that the average humans’ frontal lobes are not fully developed until 26 to 30 years of age. This prevents the comprehension and ability to answer “why” questions. The lack of development in this area of the brain disallows one from being able to determine cause and effect. Your actions in writing about the General and his firing because of your actions will ensure the deaths of many to come. I have yet to meet a journalist that is not self-serving and self-centered.
    Think about this: Sad to hear of your loss, but people die you know, it is what you are born to do, die”. This statement is so very true and factual. I had a Commander tell me this when I received a Red Cross msg that my sister had passed away. The average, acceptable human would never utter those words to a person suffering a loss and a decent journalist would never write those words in an open document for all to read – so why would you write that which you have no understanding of? This is a character flaw I have observed in every single person (Katy Curic, Tom Brokaw, et all) I have seen as a reporter or journalist.
    Capt. Marshal Hanson, USNR (Ret.) and Capt. Scott Beaton shared research on the facts and figures of the Vietnam War. The facts are quiet the revelation. Once you read the article and verify the information, I do believe you will never again say we “Lost the War in Vietnam”.
    It would be nice to learn that there is one journalist that could truly educate him/herself and access the possible damage one might create and tailor their writings to educate the masses from a neutral position.
    I am dreaming, of course!

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    About Me

    I'm the author of "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story" and a regular contributor to GQ. Previously, I was the Baghdad correspondent for Newsweek magazine. My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, the L.A. Times, and other publications of repute. This blog will focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other newsy foreign-ish things.

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