General still believes in Santa, counterinsurgency

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. John Nicholson wrote just one thing on his Christmas list which he mailed to his hero, Santa Claus: A stable Afghanistan built through comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes.

“I keep giving him metrics that make it look like U.S. Forces are accomplishing something,” said Col. Miles Vanden, Nicholson's military aide. “It’s just so cute when he believes, so I can’t quite tell him the progress isn’t real. I’m just going to let him keep it going a few more years. It’s so sad when the magic dies.”

Nicholson has spent nearly two years in Afghanistan leading all coalition troops as they “turn the corner” in preparing Afghans to self-govern through mentorship and security force assistance. This year on Christmas Eve, Nicholson has already planned to leave out cookies and milk for Santa, knowing he’ll reward him with new force levels and maybe a competent NATO counterpart.

“I’ve heard some get dismissive about the whole strategy,” said Nicholson. “My wife said that Santa won’t come all the way to Kabul. But I know that I’ve been a very good boy this year. I built 600 miles of roads and graduated three new kandaks of Afghan Special Forces. Santa’s gonna find me, I just know he will.”

At press time, Vanden was found creating reindeer footprints in the gravel to enthrall Gen. Nicholson.

“It’s my third Christmas deployed, so I’ve gotten pretty good at believing," Vanden said. “I’ll just wait until next year to tell him. He’ll figure it out by then.”