Most commentary about Secretary Gates’ Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War has focused on his pithy comments about members of the Bush and Obama Administrations, but I found the more important story in a message he may not have intended. At a Sept 3, 2010 meeting in Kandahar with Brigadier General Nick Carter, discussing the local power broker, Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK), President Karzai’s half-brother, Carter said that
… for the foreseeable future, the choice facing us was between a theocracy run by the Taliban or a “thugocracy” run by the likes of AWK. He said that working with AWK offered the best way to show results quickly against the Taliban. [Gates] told Carter that ‘if working with AWK helped keep our troops alive and succeed in their mission, then that’s no contest.’
This heads-down focus on the immediate fight, devoid of political or social context, goes a long way towards explaining the failures of our longest war.