Pete Hegseth is a captain in the U.S. Army stationed in Afghanistan as a counterinsurgency instructor. He's also a prolific and articulate observer during his deployment. The Princeton graduate and native of Forest Lake regularly shares his view on reasons for optimism -- and for concern -- about U.S. military operations through his e-mail newsletter.
"I've built a down and dirty list of critical mission factors; some give me optimism, others give me pause [challenges], and still others remain large and looming questions that will impact ultimate war success or failure," he writes in one of his first missives from Afghanistan.
Among his first impressions six weeks in: The civil/military counterinsurgency appears to be working. In the past year, U.S. forces have pushed back the Taliban in the south, expanded the Kabul security bubble and protected key districts across the country. On the flip side, the swiftly approaching U.S. drawdown has complicated these efforts as the Taliban appears to be waiting out the Americans. Also, Hegseth reports the much maligned Afghan Army appears to be improving, with more than 80 infantry battalions being added. Conversely, the even more maligned Afghan National Police apparently is still struggling with massive corruption and training deficiencies.
He says the perceived illegitimacy of the government of President Hamid Karzai and the struggle for autonomy in a country almost completely dependent on foreign aid will present long-term challenges.
"We are not rebuilding in Afghanistan; we are building almost from scratch," he writes.
Hegseth, who is expected to return to the United States in the spring, was recently named a Center of the American Experiment senior fellow and was one of the leaders of the group Vets for Freedom. He served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. No matter your political persuasion, his reasoned voice is an important one to listen to in the debate. You can sign up for his newsletter at www.petehegseth.com.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434