Yesterday's article in the Wall Street Journal with the attention-getting headline "Taliban Now Winning" in Afghanistan has generated a lot of controversy, and according to some people I've spoken to, some anger in the Pentagon. Jim Hanson at Blackfive rightly noted yesterday that there was little to back up the headline.
They quote McChrystal directly many times throughout the piece but somehow this bit is absent quotes and I think they may be mischaracterizing what he actually said. If he actually believes they have gained the upper hand, that would be quite significant, but it seems more likely he said they have gained ground.
Hanson smartly followed up his suspicions about the WSJ article with an email to the ISAF Public Affairs team, and here is what he got back from Lieutenant Colonel Tadd Sholtis, McChrystal's public affairs officer:
Jim--I sat in on the interview, and the Journal article overstated Gen McChrystal's position. The Commander did not say the Taliban was winning in his interview, as suggested by the headline. Asked by the reporter if the Taliban had the upper hand, he explained that International Security Assistance Forces are facing an aggressive enemy, employing complex tactics, that has gained momentum in some parts of Afghanistan. During the course of the interview he also observed that ISAF has had some success in reversing the initiative, and that insurgents in Afghanistan face their own long-term problems in terms of public support, group cohesiveness and their ability to sustain morale and fighting capacity. There was much more nuance to his analysis than made it into the Journal article.
TADD SHOLTIS, LTC, USAF (OF-4) Public Affairs Officer for the Commander, ISAF Headquarters, International Security Assistance Force
There are plenty of problems in Afghanistan, but the public is done a disservice when attention-grabbing headlines misrepresent the severity of the problem. A more accurate description of the situation would be a stalemate, but that wouldn't grab your attention in a headline.