Abu Muqawama argues that the surge in Iraq worked, contrary to the seemingly widely-held opinion that it succeeded tactically but failed strategically. He bases his opinion on the following definition of the objectives of a military intervention:
“We intervene in … a conflict in order to establish a condition in which the political objective can be achieved by other means and in other ways. We seek to create a conceptual space for diplomacy, economic incentives, political pressure and other measures to create a desired political outcome of stability, and if possible democracy.” (General Rupert Smith)
In other words, a military intervention (surge included) can only create the conditions for the successful establishment of an indigenous political process. A military intervention can not and should not successfully create the political process itself. Therefore an imperfect political process does not mean the surge in Iraq did not work.
In that light, what conclusions can we draw on the ongoing 'surge' in Afghanistan? I stress ongoing because let us remind ourselves that not all of the extra 37,000 ISAF troops have actually been deployed yet. Very far from it.
It is very, very early to draw any meaningful conclusions given that the 'clear' phase of Operation Moshtarak has barely been completed in Helmand and has not even begun in Kandahar. However, time is short and some questions must be asked now.
Perhaps Smith's definition serves as a timely yardstick for what we should realistically expect from ISAF this summer? Perhaps it also could serve as a timely wake-up call to other international actors to get their act together and do their bit to fill the newly-created conceptual space?
Alternatively, perhaps even these objectives are too ambitious in the context of Afghanistan? Perhaps the international community simply does not agree on a common definition of the conceptual space? Perhaps Smith's definition is faulty or just plain wrong?