The questions not only reveal a nuanced grasp of the war, but also home in on the gravest unsolved challenges in McChrystal and Eikenberry's struggle to turn the tide in Afghanistan. The questions also incorporate the criticisms of all ideological camps, whether doves who fear endless war or hawks who worry about going soft on al-Qaeda--or even military academics who want stricter implementation of counterinsurgency theory. Spencer Ackerman wrote, "With luck, staffers for the House and Senate armed-services and foreign-affairs committee are slipping printouts of this post into their bosses' briefing books." They may not need to: When Sen. Claire MacCaskill asked on Facebook for suggested questions, Shachtman's post was the only thing linked--twice.
* You've said the primary mission of ISAF forces should be to secure the population. So why are 9,000 of the 30,000 surge troops headed to largely rural Helmand province? Why are Marines now assaulting the largely abandoned city of Now Zad?
* Counterinsurgencies are most successful when troops live among the population. Remind me: How many ISAF troops are currently stationed at the giant military bases at Kandahar and Bagram Air Fields?
* You've said that training the Afghan army and police is now the primary mission there. So why are you devoting only one of the surge brigades to that task?
* What good are more cops and soldiers, if the government that controls them is still corrupt?