BY THOMAS P.M. BARNETT
Of all the lessons he's learned in this war, the most important one to Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis is this: Winning this war is mostly about not losing friends along the way. In the run-up to the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, General Mattis was charged with setting up an air base in Pakistan to make the movement of marines into the theater possible. To clear the way for the airstrip, he flew to Islamabad and sat down with the Pakistani joint headquarters staff, a meeting that was mostly taken up with a litany of offenses the Americans had committed against the Pakistanis. "It started with the shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers, who flew out of Peshawar, and goes on about how many times our country has screwed theirs," says Mattis.
"Finally, after three hours, I said, 'I surrender. I am going to Afghanistan. Now, are you going to help me or not?'
"I said, 'I want to bring the ships in next to the beach. I want to land stuff across the beach. I have an airstrip nearby where I can fly stuff in and out. I want an intermediate support base where I can put some fuel. And by the way, here is H-hour, D day, and my objective.' The Pakistanis knew it all three weeks in advance and never revealed one word."