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Mullen: Get Ready to Live With the Afghan Forces

Not long ago, a Marine colonel named Dale Alford who served in Afghanistan had some blunt criteria for how we’d know if U.S. troops were truly partnered with Afghan soldiers. It came out of some evidently harsh experience. “If you’re not not sleeping with them, eating with them and crapping in same bucket as them, you’re not partnered with them,” Alford said at a Marine Corps University counterinsurgency conference in September.

Adm. Mike Mullen’s message in this hearing? Bring out the buckets.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed a “fundamental difference” in thinking about partnership with the Afghans “really, since Gen. McChrystal got there.” The non-bucket experience Alford alluded to was, Mullen said, “mentoring and training.”

This is partnering. And it’s getting everyone off their bases, and out with the community. Those two differences are significant.

We’ll see how that works in practice. Well, in truth, I don’t want to see that closely …

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