It's not easy to get into the Newspaper of Record. But if you're the commander of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and you want to send a message that those troops need to stay in the country past 2014, apparently you just tell the New York Times that you're ready to talk.
Afghan forces are now leading the fight here. They managed an air assault last week, for example, and they may be winning the respect of the Afghan people. But the bottom line for Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is simple: Afghanistan still needs the United States and will for years to come.
The problem for General Dunford, the commander of American and allied forces here, is that most Americans no longer seem to believe that the United States needs the war in Afghanistan.
In an interview on Sunday that he had requested, General Dunford, 58, sought to counter an abundance of disheartening news recently about the war and to make a case for why American troops need to stay in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends next year.
It's an unusual admission to see in the paper, and it's especially intriguing given that the piece is so obviously built around serving the needs of Dunford. It refers to "his pitch," quotes him extensively and with hardly a challenge, and commiserates over the difficulty of being in charge ("running the war effort in Afghanistan has always been as much a diplomatic sales job as a battlefield command").
The Times notes that
a steady drumbeat of bad news has forced General Dunford to turn his attention to the home front in an effort to counter the spreading perception that the war is a failed enterprise. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week found that only 28 percent of Americans think the war is worth fighting.
His response was to call that "noise," and the Times reports that Dunford believes "that ground realities were better than portrayed in news reports." Lucky for him, he can call up the New York Times to tell his story–and they'll print it.