I’d always counted myself as skeptical of the so-called surge, the 33,000 extra U.S. troops that President Barack Obama sent to Afghanistan between 2008 and 2011. Afghanistan’s fundamental problems aren’t amenable to military solutions, I thought. The escalation in fighting came at a tremendous human cost. And the vast amounts of money spent on the project have fueled cancerous corruption.
A recent trip to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan didn’t change my view on those issues, but it did bring me around to a surprising conclusion: Calm has broken out over the southern half of the region, which just a few years ago was a bastion of the insurgency and almost entirely out of government control.