Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: Is It Working?

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"That has come at the balance of: We are not capable of doing as many or as dense, you know, enemy-centric focused patrols to eliminate the IEDs, cells, and the facilitators, and the financiers and all of that," he said. "So that's the cost. I think when you look at the end result, though, the benefit still outweighs the cost from a mission accomplishment perspective."

Paganini acknowledged the costs in resources and human treasure.

"It takes awhile, and the cost is extremely high," he said. "But there is that capability, this long term tremendous benefit, specifically for Afghanistan, but for a greater area. I mean, the region can look at that and say, 'I would have bet everything against that, but look at it, it's working.' And, I think, that has an impact."

Paganini was aware American public patience and willingness to fund the war was wearing thin, but he remained confident that the war would be won.

"We've got to work within the resources that we're capable of," he said. "I don't know that we necessarily need to sustain that amount of money, but what we need to sustain is that thought process of whatever resources we commit -- American treasure in soldiers or money or whatever it is -- it's got to be geared towards a specific effect, and how long-lasting do we want that effect to be, and how do we sustain the benefits of that effect. That's the critical thought that's got to go into it.. And we know as we talk about sustainment of that effect that the resources are not unlimited.

"So you do have to plan for: OK, at some point, how are we going to turn this over or scale down this and let the Afghans take more control of this," he said. "And it's not just in the south."

Paganini wears a black metal bracelet bearing all the names of the soldiers that didn't come home during his last tour in Afghanistan. He wears it every day, so as never to forget them, he said.

"I am really proud of the guys that are over there fighting it right now because it's tough," he said. "And they are doing tremendous work. It's really hard to look a kid in the eye and go, "Today, you are not going out there on a hunt, [even though] that's what you went into your recruiter's office to do. Today you're going out there to talk to an elder and find out why they didn't participate in a shura yesterday, and that's going to get us closer to winning than anything you're doing to do on the hunt.'

"And when soldiers accept that and internalize that and go out and execute that, that nests, that end state, all the way out to the ISAF level -- it's hugely important and tremendously difficult and they're doing it with absolute precision every day," he said.

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