Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Now this is a totally hilarious quote

Ok, so here I am this afternoon just minding my own business when I see this tweet from @USArmy:
U.S.-Afghan operation in Marja is, "the greatest in the history of counterinsurgency" http://bit.ly/bvx8V6
Uh, ok. So I click on the link, which takes me to an article on army.mil from someone at the American Forces Press Service called Jordan Reimer. The piece starts with this:

The ongoing U.S.-Afghan operation in Marja, Afghanistan, probably is the greatest in the history of counterinsurgency, the United States special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan said in a weekend television interview.

The United States made a concerted effort to introduce combined units from the U.S. and Afghan militaries, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Afghan government officials to the area as part of its "clear, hold, build, and transfer" policy, Richard C. Holbrooke told CNN's "GPS" host Fareed Zakaria.

Hmm, ok. No quotation marks. Is this a direct quote, or what? And if it is, what the hell does it mean for something to be "the greatest [operation] in the history of counterinsurgency"? A little more digging and I find the transcript from Holbrooke's appearance on Zakaria's show, and then this:

ZAKARIA: How would you describe the operation in Marjah and how would you particularly describe the - the transference of authority from American forces to locals? Do you think that the Afghans who are likely to take charge are going to be able to hold the territories that General McChrystal clears?

HOLBROOKE: Well, that's the test, and I would agree with General Petraeus' comments to you last Sunday on this program. Clear, hold, build and transfer is the shorthand for the strategy. That's why we made a major effort, probably the greatest in - in the history of counterinsurgency, to bring in with the military forces, as soon as the area was secure, civilians. The U.S. government, the State Department, AID put together a small but very high quality team that's been moving into Marjah and, most importantly, accompanied by Afghan officials.

A little more context here. What it looks like Holbrooke is saying is that Operation Moshtarek included the most significant effort in history to emplace follow-on civilian administration after the AO was cleared of insurgents, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than saying that the operation was the "greatest in the history of counterinsurgency."

Hell, it's probably even true.

(Man, that guy who thinks the sole purpose of this blog is to criticize other people's writing is really gonna hate this one!)


  1. There is definitely a Jordan Reimer who graduated from Princeton a year or two ago and now works for DOD. Wonder if it's him.

  2. Geez, I'm not trying to start a manhunt for the dude. (But if you find him, tell him to contextualize his quotes better.)

  3. Wait a minute. "Clear-hold-build-transfer"? I thought we were into "Shape-clear-hold-build" and that we didn't like the "transfer" concept because the GIRoA isn't up to it. Or are they?