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Afghan War Strategy

Afghan War Strategy

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Alternate Strategy for Afghanistan
Alternate Strategy for Afghanistan

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Published by: aexum on Nov 06, 2009
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january 2009
Ke remmedts
 Ater seven years o war, the international com-munity has ailed to create the conditions ora sustainable Aghan state. The reality is thatthe international coalition now has limitedresources and a narrow political time rame tocreate lasting Aghan institutions. Yet, build-ing such institutions is our only realistic exitstrategy.The debate in Washington and Europeancapitals has recently centered on how many more troops will be sent to Aghanistan in2009 as part o a
surge. Such a tacti-cal adjustment is unlikely to make much o adierence in a country where the basic popu-
Fs d Et: a ateteStteg f te afg W
GillES DorronSoro
Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment or International Peace
Objectives in Aghanistan must be reconciled with the resources available to pursue them.
The mere presence o oreign soldiers fghting a war in Aghanistan is probably the single most important actorin the resurgence o the Taliban.
The best way to weaken, and perhaps divide, the armed opposition is to reduce military conrontations.
The main policy objective should be to leave an Aghan government that is able to survive a U.S. withdrawal.
Strategy should dierentiate three areas and allocate resources accordingly: strategic cities and transportationroutes that must be under total Aghan/alliance control; buers around strategic areas, where NATO and theAghan army would ocus their struggle against insurgents; and opposition territory, where NATO and Aghanorces would not epend eort or resources.
Withdrawal will allow the United States to ocus on the central security problem in the region: al-Qaeda and theinstability in Pakistan.
F  I  N  I  Y  
lation-to-troops ratio is estimated at approxi-mately 430 people per oreign soldier. Every year, we have seen small-scale surges o troopsand resources, only to have more violence,growing casualties, and an ever-stronger insur-gency. Meanwhile, the Aghan and Westernpublics are losing patience.The real question is how combat troopsshould be used. The two choices we ace are whether to continue playing oense by goingater the Taliban, especially in the south andthe east, and spreading troops thin; or whetherto adopt a new strategy ocusing on protectingstrategic sites, namely, urban centers and key 
roads, to allow or the development o a strongcore o Aghan institutions.The latter strategy consists o de-escalatinga war that has become a Jihad and buildingenough Aghan military capacity to main-tain relative stability in these key areas. Toaccomplish that, we have one major political weapon: a progressive and ocused scaling-down o combat troops on our own terms.This would neutralize the Taliban’s appealsor Jihad against unbelieving oreign invad-ers, open up space or Aghan institutions andpolitical solutions, and allow us to ocus oureorts on areas where we can still make a di-erence. This strategy brings its own risks, butthe risks are ar smaller than continuing withmore o the same policies and reaching a point where we are let with no choice but to leavein chaos.This analysis oers ve main recommenda-tions that I here reer to as a “ocus and exitstrategy.”1) Available resources must shape the strat-egy, not the other way around. The UnitedStates and its allies have nearly reached theirmaximum level o commitment. The more mil-itary resources the allies put into Aghanistan,the less time they have to succeed. The reasonis that the nancial and human costs o main-taining a high-level military presence becomepolitical liabilities.2) Due to limited resources, the objectiveshave to be clear and limited. The main objec-tive is to leave an Aghan government that cansurvive a U.S. and NATO withdrawal. Policiesthat are not part o the general strategy shouldnot be priorities. For example, it is not possibleto have an eective counternarcotics policy orto impose Western values on Aghan society.3) The key idea is to lower the level o con-fict (i.e., to reverse the current trend o ever-increasing violence). The only way to weaken,and perhaps divide, the armed opposition isto reduce military conrontations. The UnitedStates must dene three areas: strategic zones(under total allied control), buer areas(around the strategic ones), and oppositionterritory. Policies would be very dierent ineach area; the resources allocated to institutionbuilding would be mostly concentrated in thestrategic areas.4) The only meaningul way to halt theinsurgency’s momentum is to start withdraw-ing troops. The presence o oreign troopsis the most important element driving theresurgence o the Taliban. Combat troop re-duction should not be a consequence o anelusive “stabilization”; rather, it should con-stitute an essential part o a political-military strategy. The withdrawal must be conductedon U.S. terms only, not through negotiations,because negotiations with the armed opposi-tion would weaken the Aghan government.Negotiations between the Aghan governmentand the Taliban cannot bring positive resultsuntil the Taliban recognize that the govern-ment in Kabul is going to survive ater the withdrawal.5) Withdrawal would allow the UnitedStates to ocus on the central security prob-lems in the region: al-Qaeda and the instabil-ity in Pakistan. The withdrawal would allowPakistan to dene common interests with theUnited States instead o playing the constantdouble game we have witnessed in recentdecades.
Te Pspet f lsg te W
 Ater seven years in Aghanistan, the Westerncoalition does not have much to show interms o progress. All available data indicatea general ailure in security and state build-ing: increased civilian and military casualties,expansion o the guerillas, unavorable percep-tions o oreign troops by the local population,absence o unctioning national institutions,and growing destabilization o the Pakistaniborder, which threatens NATO’s logisticalroads, essential or resupplying NATO orces.Most o the two provinces south o Kabulare under the control o the Taliban. Eortsto improve health services and educationare undermined by the persistent insecurity.Reasonable expectations or 2009 are that the
Gilles Doonsoo
, a visit-ing scholar at the CarnegieEndowment, is an epert onAghanistan, Turkey, andSouth Asia. His research o-cuses on security and politicaldevelopment in Aghanistan,particularly the role o the In-ternational Security AssistanceForce, the necessary steps ora viable government in Kabul,and the conditions necessaryor withdrawal scenarios.Previously, Dorronsoro was aproessor o political scienceat the Sorbonne, Paris and theInstitute o Political Studies oRennes. He also served as thescientifc coordinator at theFrench Institute o AnatolianStudies in Istanbul, Turkey.He is the co-ounder and edi-tor o the
South Asian Multi-disciplinary Academic Journal 
and the
European Journal of Turkish Studies
. He is theauthor o
Revolution Unend-ing: Afghanistan, 1979 to thePresent 
(Columbia UniversityPress, 2005), and
La révolutionafghane, des communistes aux Taleban
(Karthala Publishers2000), and editor o
La Turquieconteste. Régime sécuritaire et mobilisations sociales
(Editionsdu CNRS, 2005).
number o Western casualties will grow over300, and the Taliban insurgency will expand.Historically, a guerrilla organization with asanctuary, relatively good organization andresources, quick recruitment, high levels o commitment, and a oreign enemy ar romits base has a strong likelihood o winning inthe long run. Canadas plan or military with-drawal ater 2011 is a sign that tensions areincreasing inside the coalition about sharingthe burden o an unpopular war. A long-termpresence (“generational commitment”) in Aghanistan with 300 allied deaths per yeardoes not seem politically easible. In other words, the simple continuation o the samepolicy with an incremental increase o troopsis most certainly going to ail to deeat theTaliban militarily.I a strategy is the matching o ends tomeans, there has not been a clear U.S. strategy in Aghanistan since the war began in October2001. Until the arrival o Robert Gates atthe Department o Deense, the idea that the Aghan situation had become serious had noteven been publicly considered by Westerngovernment ocials. NATO communiquésritually orecast the imminent disappearanceo the Taliban insurgency. In this war, spin andunrealistic expectations have led to signicantsel-inficted wounds, contributing to the be-lated U.S. response to the worsening situa-tion between 2001 and 2006. Conventionaland wishul thinking did a grave disservice to Aghanistan in the years ater 2001.It would be unair to put all the blame on theBush administration. Since 2001, the expertshave been generally wrong about Aghanistan.
 Expectations ater 2001 were ar too optimistic and based on allacies, such as the ideathat the Taliban were oreign to Aghan soci-ety and had no local support. In the words o two widely noted experts, “a residual Talibaninsurgency is unlikely,” allowing them to pre-dict the “likely disappearance o the radicalIslamist movements in Aghanistan.”
Why  worry when the experts in the eld are pre-dicting the end o the war and the weakeningo the undamentalist networks? In this sense,many experts contributed to the U.S. attitudeo benign neglect toward Aghanistan. The vo-cabulary o the postwar reports (“reconstruc-tion,” “state building,” “development”) wasa sign o a undamental misunderstanding o local dynamics. For years, the words “war” or“counterinsurgency” were orbidden in the o-cial communications o some Western gov-ernments on the assumption that they wouldrighten their populations. At present, the only bright spot is that a-ter years o denial, the arrival o Robert Gatesat the Pentagon brought a dramatic changein U.S. thinking. The urgency o the Aghanquestion has been recognized, and ocialshave begun to mention the prospect thatNATO could lose the war. The general reviewo the Aghan strategy currently underway willcontribute to the ormulation o an Aghanpolicy or the Obama administration.The need or a debate about the Aghan war is obvious. Yet, according to Anthony Cordesman, “the amount o data providedhas actually declined as the confict has grownmore serious.”
Lack o inormation precludesan honest debate and impairs the gathering o badly needed outside assessments. The experts’access to the Aghan eld is ar too limited,precluding a sound analysis o counterinsur-gency practices at a local level.Today, the propositions made in deningan
 Aghan strategy are generally designed to x existing policies more than to propose new ones.
 For example, building a more avorable re-gional environment with Aghanistan’s neigh-bors would certainly not be useless,
but it would not address the central question o the
Te dete  Wsgt d Epe ptss eet eteed  w m me tps we set t afgst  2009 s pt f  mtsge. S  tt dstmet s ke t mkem f  dffeee.... Te e qest s wmt tps sd e sed.

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