We're here so that Afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary for transnational extremists the way it was when al-Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks in the Kandahar area, conducted the initial training for the attackers in training camps in Afghanistan before they moved on to Germany and then to U.S. flight schools.
Setting aside moral considerations, those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims should realize they are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The terrorists' explicit hope has been to try to provoke a clash of civilizations - telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion.
In many respects, Afghanistan represents a more difficult problem set. It does not have a number of the blessings that Iraq has in terms of the oil, gas, land of two rivers, the human capital that Iraq built up over the years, the muscle memory of a strong government - albeit one that was corrupted over time.
I considered our British comrades to rank with the finest men and women of any armed service in the world. And I know that my fellow American soldiers - and those of the other coalition countries under my command - valued very highly the professional expertise, capability, courage, and determination of our British partners on the battlefield.
We're all outriders out there, and what we have is all these large number of tasks - that's the herd; that's all the cattle - a whole bunch of individual, hundreds if not thousands of projects at any given time ongoing that we're trying to complete. So we're trying to keep the cattle herd, keep it all just going in the right direction.
The Germans have done wonderful work. Not long ago, a German battle group battalion conducted a very impressive counterinsurgency operation in a portion of Baghlan province. I think these are the first counterinsurgency operations conducted by any German element after World War II. And they did a very impressive job.
We all have to strive to learn what motivates us, learn from our experiences, and what feels right and what feels wrong. There's a strong component over the years to having formal processes that help to identify lessons that need to be learned, and actions that need to be taken. In other words, how do you find the big idea?