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Document Friday: “Iraq is an advanced society… Afghanistan is not.”

August 13, 2010

Most of the good stuff was redacted from this 5 September 2008 memo written by the Acting CENTCOM Commander, Lieutenant General Dempsey to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.  But one unredacted PowerPoint slide bluntly shows the difference between the two countries that we’re fighting wars in.  Take a look for yourself:

Is a slide worth a thousand words?

These grim statistics show why the “war of necessity” may be harder to win than the “war of choice.”  They were also likely on President Obama’s mind as he conducted his three-month reassessment of the War in Afghanistan, and as he made his ultimate decision to boost troop levels and begin to implement a counter-insurgency strategy similar General Peterus’s successful(?) surge in Iraq.

The “dumb dumb bullets” (a terrific term for military PowerPoints coined by T.X. Hammes) also support Obama’s assertion that the US military should not have “took its eye off the ball” and shifted its focus from the difficult and uncompleted war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq.  Admiral Mullen, months before he received this memo, said as much to Jim Leherer:  “My priorities, again, given to me by the commander-in-chief are focus on Iraq first. It’s been that way for some time. Focus on Afghanistan second.

In addition to Afghanistan’s longer border, larger population, and more diverse tribal makeup, here are some additional disheartening statistics provided by UNICEF:

  • Only an estimated 28 percent of adults can read.  (Iraq 74%)
  • Only two percent of the population are internet users. (Iraq only 1%)
  • Only 22 percent of the population use “improved drinking-water sources.” (Iraq 77%)
  • Only 30 percent use “improved sanitation facilities.” (Iraq 76%)
  • And the average life expectancy is 44 years. (Iraq 68 years)

The conclusion of the “dumb dumb bullets” is a grim one:

“*Iraq is an advanced society…Afghanistan is not.

*Iraq has a mature infrastructure…Afghanistan does not.”

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