The Long War: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

Nine years in, the American war against Afghanistan is the longest in our history. With the surge, it is costing taxpayers nearly $100 billion per year, a sum roughly seven times larger than Afghanistan’s annual gross national product of $14 billion and well more than, for example, the total annual cost of the new U.S. health insurance program. Thousands of American and allied personnel and countless thousands of Afghanis have been killed or gravely wounded in the conflict.

The centralized government we have attempted to impose on the highly decentralized Afghan polity has failed to take: "President Karzai has had nearly six years to build a legitimate and minimally effective government, and he has manifestly failed to do so," says this report sponsored by the New America Foundation. "His re-election last year was marred by widespread fraud. Karzai has been unable or unwilling to crack down on corruption or rein in the warlords on whom his government still depends."

It's clear that the current occupation is a failure, amounting to not much more than a Kissingerish policy of destroying a society in order to save it. To avoid being thrown out, you might think we should end our involvement preemptively by leaving of our own volition, but that is not something the foreign policy establishment is willing to contemplate, so we have this attempt to come up with an alternative plan:

The way forward: A five point approach

  1. Emphasize Power-Sharing and Political Reconciliation
  2. Scale Back and Eventually Suspend Combat Operations in the South and Reduce the U.S. Military Footprint
  3. Keep the Focus on Al Qaeda and Domestic Security
  4. Promote Economic Development
  5. Engage Global and Regional Stakeholders.
The authors of the report, holding to conventional faith in western-style economic and security arrangements, believe the United States should not "abandon" Afghanistan even though "U.S. interests at stake in Afghanistan do not warrant this level of sacrifice;" instead they argue it's time to rethink the current strategy. Trying to pacify Afghanistan by force of arms has not and will not work, but even if you accept the premise that America’s vital security interests are engaged there, the costly military campaign is more likely to jeopardize than to protect them. Although the authors continue to find the invasion justified because the attack was initially targeted at al-Qaeda, they admit that "there are only some 400 hard-core al-Qaeda members remaining in the entire Af-Pak theater, most of them hiding in Pakistan's northwest provinces." Since we can't attack Pakistan for various reasons, Afghanistan will have to do, but at least the U.S. should ratchet down its goals to ones that are both more consistent with what the authors define as America’s true interests and that, being more modest, are more likely to succeed.

A New Way Forward | Re-Thinking US Strategy in Afghanistan is a report of the Afghanistan Study Group sponsored by the New America Foundation. Read the report on-line or download it (pdf) to find out what some of the more rational members of the foreign policy establishment are thinking about the war.

1 comment:

mommapolitico said...

As one of the generals told Maddow in her time reporting from Afghanistan: "We've given them the best chance they've ever had." Time to come home, time for Pakistan to admit they're playing both sides against the middle and always will. Time to bring our people home and quit increasing the national debt by paying for contractors.

Great post- thanks for the link to the report. Go, P2Blogs!

Related Posts with Thumbnails