Sunday, July 16, 2017

Commentary on Afghanistan

"Corruption, in the end, is the principal threat to our long-term objectives in Afghanistan".

General (Ret) John Allen, former ISAF commander, June 2017 in a Brookings interview.
Political and Electoral Reform Needed. To end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan the political institutions of the country need to be revamped and the electoral process reformed. Less control over the province and districts by the central government is needed. Read more in "The Key to Ending Afghanistan's Long War - It's Politics, Stupid", The Hill Opinion, July 9, 2017.

Pakistan and the Haqqani Network. One of the most effective insurgent groups in the Afghan conflict is the Haqqani Network. It has sanctuaries in Pakistan and receives strong support from Pakistan's spy agency - the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI. Rahmatullah Nabil (former Director of the Afghan National Directorate of Security or NDS) and Melissa Skorka - an advisor on the COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) for several years have written an article on this topic entitled "The Terror Problem From Pakistan", The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2017.

Stopping the Taliban (via Pakistan). The Taliban are better financed, equipped and supported than ever and the results on the battlefields of Afghanistan are proof of that. Pakistan plays a big role in the resurgent Taliban. Read more in "Calling Pakistan's Bluff: The Right Way to Stop the Taliban"Foreign Affairs, July 14, 2017.

Five Experts on Afghanistan and Policy Options. John Allen (Gen Ret), Vanda Felbab-Brown, Tanvi Madan, Michael O'Hanlon, and Bruce Riedel all have something to say about Afghanistan and the way forward. Read Rightsizing Expectations: US Policy Options for Afghanistan, Foreign Policy at Brookings, July 2017. A 25-page report about evolving objectives, endurring challenges, and U.S. policy options.

Reintegration - Not Reconciliation. If the Taliban wanted peace they would be sitting at the negotiation table right now. Notice the empty chair? That's because they are winning on the battlefield. If the leaders of the Taliban can't be reconciled then perhaps the foot soldiers can be reintegrated? Probably not, as the conditions are not quite right for a successful reintegration program. Read more in "With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation", The National Interest, July 12, 2017.

India Should be Wary of U.S. Afghan Policy. India has become the most reliable regional partner for Afghanistan but the United States will likely demand more of India. But . . . India should be aware of "What Trump's Afghanistan Policy Means for India", The Diplomat, July 15, 2017.

China in Afghanistan - Not in a Big Way Yet. Vinay Kaura, an assistant professor at Sardar Patel University (India), has contributed a column to the Middle East Institute about China's participation in the Afghan conflict. He says that China has a vested interest in a stable Afghanistan. China has it's own security problems (its western province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan), regional stability (especially the Pakistan-India dilemna), and economic objectives ("One Belt, One Road", "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor", and mining concessions in Afghanistan). However, thus far it has managed to stay above the fray in Afghanistan. Read more in "China Makes Diplomatic Play in Afghanistan", Middle East Institute, July 12, 2017.

More Troops for Afghanistan? Why? Dan Depetris writes that investing more time, money, and lives in a country where corruption, violence and patronage determine who wins and who loses is fruitless. Read his thoughts in "Commentary: Steve Bannon is Right on Afghanistan", Reuters, July 9, 2017.

Obtaining Political Stability for Afghanistan. The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) has published a 20-page report by Alex Thier and Scott Worden entitled Political Stability in Afghanistan: A 2020 Vision and Roadmap, July 10, 2017.

Afghanistan, Logistics, and the Tyranny of Geography. Maintaining and logistically re-supplying a military force in a remote, land-locked country surrounded by nations not so friendly to the U.S. poses a daunting challenge. While Pakistan supports the Haqqani Network and other Taliban insurgent groups by providing sanctuaries and other means of support it also allows the U.S. to fly over its territory, use its seaports, and ground lines of communication to supply its troops and feed the war machine in Afghanistan. The U.S. is not on friendly terms with Iran and our relationship with Russia is problematic. Barnett R. Rubin, Director of the Afghanistan Regional Project, provides the details of this topic in "Afghanistan and Considerations of Supply", War on the Rocks, July 11, 2017.

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