I haven’t had the time to read anything other than second-hand commentary on the WikiLeaks document dump, but as “revelations” go, this one seems to be weak tea. The direct effect on the Afghanistan War will most likely be felt in some of the relationships the U.S. must manage (Pakistan and India, for instance). There’s also the risk that some of the granular information they contain, which extend to some NATO coalition partners, could accelerate the crumbling of support in Europe. Beyond that, as Joshua Foust noted, there is the human cost faced by Afghan informants and other strategic assets […]
As Gen. David Petraeus takes over the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, he is right to continue a strategy of counterinsurgency and to strengthen it with a plan that seeks to give local Afghan communities the means to defend themselves. However, both the recently announced local defense plan, which pays community members to don a rifle and police uniform, and the over-arching counterinsurgency of which it is a part take the wrong path to reducing violence in Afghanistan. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008, the U.S. “cannot kill its way to victory.” Yet, the Pentagon has emphasized “providing […]
In terms of volume, the more than 90,000 documents posted on the WikiLeaks Web site has to be one of the largest publications on the Internet of classified U.S. government material. But in terms of content, the so-called Afghanistan War Logs don’t tell us anything that most people who have been following the war even casually don’t already know. For example, U.S. officials have long complained about support within Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for foreign terrorist groups — including the Taliban, which the ISI helped establish. The large number of Afghan civilian casualties resulting from coalition […]
A flurry of posts on COIN happen to form a coherent discussion of the strengths, weaknesses and future of counterinsurgency in the post-Afghanistan era: Michael Cohen here, David Ucko here, Spencer Ackerman (responding to Cohen) here and Andrew Exum responding to Ucko here. This last one by David Steven, unrelated to the rest, neatly wraps some context around them all. As for me, I think the U.S. military will leave Afghanistan having integrated the full-spectrum, whole-of-government approach to warfare, that it will not reapply its newly gained expertise in any major conflict for the decade that Stevens floats, but that […]
There are a lot of reasons to be reassured by the Pakistani government’s decision to extend Gen. Ashfaq Kayani’s term as chief of staff by three years: continuity in leadership at a crucial strategic moment in Afghanistan and the Pakistan frontier, as well as a solid reputation for integrity and competence that facilitates what could otherwise be tough political sells in both ongoing wars. The similarity to the arguments supporting the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to lead the U.S. and NATO war effort in Afghanistan should be obvious. It’s comforting to think that the two men are well-suited to […]
The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan. The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, […]
Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to have Afghan forces take charge of security operations nationwide by 2014. Though delegates at an international donor conference in Kabul were apprehensive of too quick a changeover, most were optimistic that Afghan forces will soon be able to head security efforts in the country.
One of U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus’ first moves after taking command of the nine-year-old NATO war effort in Afghanistan three weeks ago was to begin forming what the top U.S. military spokesman characterized as “community policing units” to help bolster local security in Taliban-plagued areas. The impetus behind the scheme was simple enough. “We clearly do not have enough police forces to provide security in enough of the populated areas,” top Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell admitted. Nevertheless, reaction to the plan was swift and alarmed. Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly objected to it — and for good reason. On […]
Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, spoke to Al Jazeera’s James Bays ahead of the Afghanistan conference in Kabul. Kouchner discusses the history of conflict in the country as well as future prospects for peace.
With his recent selections of Gens. David Petraeus and James Mattis for command in Afghanistan and Central Command respectively, President Barack Obama signals his understanding that his previously established deadline of mid-2011 to begin drawing down combat troops in the “good war” cannot be met. The two were co-architects of the military’s renewed embrace of both counterinsurgency operations and the associated nation-building project that by necessity goes along with it. Neither flag officer can be expected to preside over a Vietnam-like exit that once again puts troubled and untrustworthy Pakistan in charge of Afghanistan’s fate. And so, despite the conventional […]
U.S. strategies in two key fronts of the ongoing struggle against terrorism and extremism — Afghanistan and Somalia — are predicated on one critical element: the eventual emergence of a central government that can establish its writ throughout the territory nominally under its jurisdiction. And in both cases, the central governments that exist on paper seem to offer little hope for success. Diplomats may recognize Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the head of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as president of Somalia, and Hamid Karzai has held the presidency in Afghanistan for many years now. But oftentimes it seems that both […]
The British 16 Air Assault Brigade prepares for a six month deployment to Helmand province. Preparations include not just familiarizing themselves with equipment, but also involve practicing joint patrols with Afghan troops and learning how to handle themselves in culturally defined communication, such as shuras, with tribal elders.
In the two weeks since Gen. David Petraeus was nominated to be the new commander for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, continuity has been the dominant theme in describing what his replacement of ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal represents. After all, Petraeus literally wrote the book on U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, which McChrystal tried to apply in Afghanistan over the past year. It only seems natural to expect that Petraeus will maintain the same approach. But continuity is the worst possible option for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, because it would mean maintaining a strategy that appears increasingly unlikely to succeed. […]
This World Politics Review special report is a compilation of WorldPolitics Review’s top articles on Afghanistan from December 2009 through June 2010. It is an update of WPR’s first special report on Afghanistan, published in 2009. Below are links to each article, which subscribers can read in full. Subscribers can also download a pdf version of the report. Not subscriber? Not a subscriber? Subscribe now, or try our subscription service for free.Obama’s Afghanistan Plan: The Partner ProblemBy Richard WeitzDecember 2, 2009 Navigating Roadblocks in AfghanistanBy Nikolas GvosdevDecember 4, 2009 Can Spheres of Influence Solve Afghanistan?By Nikolas GvosdevDecember 11, 2009 The […]
Hillary Clinton’s inclusion of Azerbaijan in her current round of diplomatic visits, which also included stops in Poland and Georgia, reflects the need to balance the U.S.-Russia reset with symbolic reassurances to regional friends and allies. In particular, the Georgia and Azerbaijan stopovers underline the increased importance to the U.S. of good bilateral relations in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The reason? The Northern Distribution Network, the supply lifeline to U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan, comprehensively covered in this CSIS report (.pdf). Azerbaijan is part of NDN South, the back-up route that starts at the Black Sea port […]
Hard to argue with Harlan Ullman’s analysis of why we’re losing in Afghanistan. It’s a nice succinct summary of a lot of the arguments that many critics of the war, most notably Michael Cohen, have been making. And Rory Stewart is worth reading, too, just to remember the conceptual blinders we’ve collectively got on. I happen to remain relatively optimistic about the political feasability of redefining victory and drawing down the Afghanistan war at or near the July 2011 target date. But I think the subsequent transition will not be toward a full withdrawal, but more toward the kind of […]
Invariably, when Americans engage in nation-building exercises around the world, it is hoped that the indigenous leaders that emerge will be cast in the mold of our Founding Fathers. We are looking for the George Washingtons, Thomas Jeffersons, and James Madisons to take the helm in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Inevitably, we are disappointed when the Hamid Karzais, the Nouri al-Malikis and others fail to live up to these often-idealized expectations. Maybe it would help if we substituted a different set of historical names and role models. If we can’t get a Washington in Afghanistan, we’d certainly do well […]