A military themed post…

I’m on military duty for the opening part of this week and so it’s appropriate to talk about such matters here.

First (admittedly petty):  I just qualified with my rifle yesterday and I STILL have an M-16A4.  It shoots just fine but given that the weapon is essentially the same one I had when I was in basic training (back in 1986) I feel like I’m carrying around a musket.  I had really hoped to have my own E-11 blaster rifle by now.

Oh…and I think I have some cordite lodged in my sinuses since I keep getting whiffs of gunpowder.

We also did our PT test this weekend.  I had to use traditional running shoes instead of my Vibram Five Fingers but it’s hard to tell if there was a performance difference or not.  I will say that I could tell a big difference in my posture when running.  I felt like a running question mark.

Pretty interesting analysis of a recent interview with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on German TV posted in Foreign Policy.

…it became very obvious that Hekmatyar tried to walk on a political tight-rope. He apparently felt that he had to positively address different audiences. To the West, he projected himself as someone who might be willing to talk peace under certain circumstances although his Palestine remark might not earn him much credibility. To the Taliban who recently criticized him and fought his fighters, he presented himself as a good co-Mujahid with Islamic principles who is not soft at all vis-a-vis the “occupying forces” and Karzai.

It’s hard to figure out what’s going on in Afghanistan right now.  It seems every day you see one report saying we’re making progress and right on its heels is another saying that the first report was overblown.  The NYTimes captures the confusion in this story.  More important than the day to day, however, is that all this may be a campaign to change the narrative here (and maybe in the West more generally).

“It is certainly true that Petraeus is attempting to shape public opinion ahead of the December review,” said an administration official who is supportive of the general.

“He is the most skilled public relations official in the business, and he’s trying to narrow the president’s options.”

But national security officials across Washington are already saying that the December review will only tweak the policy, not change the strategy, and that the real assessment will come in July 2011, the deadline for the beginning of the withdrawal of American troops.

So this may be an attempt to lay the groundwork for a case to delay (or minimize) the 2011 draw down of forces, and walk back the 2014  official mission handover.

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