Flournoy grasped the fundamental strategic point: That the only way to win in Afghanistan is to empower friendly Afghans to take on most of the burden of keeping their country out of the hands of the Taliban. And the numbers of Afghan casualties suggest that they are doing so. Estimates of casualties for Afghan Security Forces this year alone total roughly 3,400 killed (1,200 Army and 2,200 National Police), which is more than ten times the number of Americans killed this year and more than the total of all coalition fatalities – hostile and non-hostile, US and non-US – during the eleven years of this long and difficult war.
Those are grim numbers, but they show that Afghans are bearing an increasing share of the war’s burden. As they should. After all, it’s their own country that they’re fighting for. But it’s also vital for the US to prevent the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan, so we have a huge stake in the Afghan Security Forces.
Flournoy not only grasped the centrality of that strategic point, but she pursued it skillfully and without seeking credit for what she did. As far as I know, none of this has been reported before. But it deserves to be.
It leads me to think that Flournoy might be the best possible candidate for the top Pentagon job during the coming difficult years in Afghanistan. She does not seem to be someone who would comfortably let that war be lost.