Editor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon is coauthor with Martin Indyk and Kenneth Lieberthal of the new book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.
By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN
Today's attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan do offer proof of a still-resilient insurgency. They do cause a certain amount of angst among Afghans. They entail human casualties, too, even if largely to the attackers themselves.
But we must think strategically and not fall prey to an obvious Taliban propaganda ploy. The attacks were on balance of only modest effectiveness (at most), and were suppressed almost entirely by Afghan forces.
They were the first of this type in Kabul in half a year. They would be hard to stop frankly in a Western city, requiring as they did only small arms for the most part, so we should hardly be surprised that they can't always be prevented. They are an attempt by the enemy to use limited means to maximize psychological shock value.
All this is not an argument for ignoring or trivializing today's violence, or for saying all is well with this difficult and too-long and too-costly war. It is, however, an argument for keeping things in perspective and for understanding the enemy's strategy so we don't get played by the enemy.
Two and a half more years of patience, during which we gradually downsize our troops, and Afghans will likely be ready to handle attacks like this nationwide rather than only in parts of the country. The country will still suffer from some violence even then, to be sure. And the problems of corruption and the challenges of political transition admittedly do still place mission success at a certain amount of risk. But on balance, today's sensational strikes, while tragic and disturbing, reveal as much about our strengths and the enemy's weaknesses as the opposite.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Michael O'Hanlon.