"I spent the early part of the week with some NATO leaders and Afghan Generals out on the border of Pakistan. We were looking at ways to improve joint communications regarding insurgent threats. It was an interesting experience.
"First of all, Jalallabad is a beautiful lush valley in the mountainous border region of Pakistan's tribal areas. So different from Kabul, which is a dirty, filthy city. Unfortunately, I understand that the lush fields were planted with poppy, so its not as picturesque as it seems, but it is still pretty.
"As we were flying in, it reminder me of Germany, with lots of very orderly cultivated plots of land and smaller villages sprouting out around the agricultural areas.
"This was my first real interaction with Afghan leaders. On the staff I deal with NATO forces, and when I travel it tends to mostly be to visit US forces. It was quite a thing to see these rising leaders in their ranks. They were very frank about the problems of corruption within their government and within the senior military ranks. These were men who have fought Taliban for decades and are now in a position to set their nation of a better course. They are fathers with great hopes for their children, most of whom are attending university.
"... they are men that can lead their country, and whose children may be able to build a better future. Spending time with these leaders convinced me more than ever that we need to be out of their way.
"We were on a tour when I slipped away from the group to get a side bar with a US Army intelligence Captain. I found him in their operations center--manned primarily by Afghans. As I entered the representatives from the Afghan Army, Police and Intelligence service were having an intense discussion about some issue or other. I don't know the substance of the discussion, but here they were, fully engaged in some debate about a report they had in front of them.
It gives me hope. The solutions here will not be American solutions. They will be Afghan solutions. They may not be pretty, but I am of the mind that the sooner we can transition out to a small advisory force, the better. These folks need to be in the lead. It will probably be bloody--we loose something like 10X the Afghan security forces in combat each week, primarily in areas we have turned over... They are brave. It is their country. I hope that after the election is over, we will draw down as quickly as possible."