Anne Jolis, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
When I met Afghan Army Lt. Ahmaduddin Ahmad in December 2011, embedded with U.S. forces in Kandahar, Washington had already been floating the notion of "Afghan good enough" for a while. The phrase is a euphemism for terrible, shorthand for the supposed limits of the possible in a semiliterate land governed by corrupt mediocrities, ethnic divisions and medieval mores.
For the army that Lt. Ahmad joined in his teens, "good enough" has been defined down to mean a poorly led, ill-equipped, insurgent-infiltrated force with a double-digit attrition rate. "The Taliban are already in de facto control of every area we operate in," the director of a U.S.-funded aid group told me, on condition of anonymity, during a return trip to Kabul in June. The Afghan army will exceed most expectations if it holds Kabul past 2014, when few U.S. forces will remain. "We have no choice," said the aid worker. "The Taliban are our long-term partners."
Lt. Ahmad, a slight man with bright eyes, died this summer never having accepted that any of this was "good enough." The 25-year-old officer, born in northern Panjshir, was killed three weeks ago in a firefight against the Taliban in southern Maiwand.
The news "is frustrating," says U.S. Army Lt. Michael Monty, putting it mildly. He had been Lt. Ahmad's closest counterpart in the fall of 2011, when their platoons had shared a patch of dust in Kandahar known as Combat Outpost Zharif Khel. "I think we'd all hoped that in 20 years, Ahmad might have been general."