Today, on the eve of the eight year anniversary of war in Afghanistan, Obama meets
with top congressional leaders to discuss long-term strategy. The meeting comes after a difficult weekend
, with ten American soldiers killed in two large firefights. It also comes during an especially grueling public discussion
about the war. As the White House reconsiders strategy in what began as the war on terror, experts and columnists do the same. Here, the five best ideas for how to win in Afghanistan.
- A New, Decentralized Counterinsurgency Mark Moyar explains
in the Wall Street Journal how we should design a new way of fighting.
"With the insurgent environment different in every Afghan valley,
command must be decentralized. So finding and implementing the right
tactics is primarily the job of battalion commanders and district
police chiefs, not presidents or four-star generals." Moyar says this
hinges on having good mid-level American and Afghan officers. "The
Pentagon must also be shaken from its bureaucratic lethargy and
compelled to dispatch more suitable officers as advisers to the Afghan
forces. Too often we have sent officers who lacked the personality or
experience to influence their Afghan counterparts for the better. The U.S. also must press harder to get
bad Afghan officers fired--else they persist in extortion, kidnapping
and other crimes even with a robust American presence."
- Embrace Afghanistan Feudalism Henry Kissinger draws from his experience with Vietnam to propose forgoing a centralized government. "Afghanistan has been governed, if at
all, by a coalition of local feudal or semifeudal rulers. In the past,
any attempt to endow the central government with overriding authority
has been resisted by some established local rulers. That is likely to
be the fate of any central government in Kabul, regardless of its
ideological coloration and perhaps even its efficiency." Kissinger asks, "Can a civil
society be built on a national basis in a country which is neither a
nation nor a state? For the
foreseeable future, the control from Kabul may be tenuous and its
structure less than ideal. More emphasis needs to be given to regional
efforts and regional militia. This would also enhance our political
flexibility. A major effort is needed to encourage such an evolution."
- Hire Out the Taliban Linda Robinson, understanding that the Taliban is now primarily a criminal organization and not an ideological force, suggests paying them more to fight for the Afghan government. "Mid-level insurgents and their followers should be offered a chance
to join a revised version of the Afghan Public Protection Force. These
local self-defense forces should be expanded and tied to legitimate
local governing structures -- both official and tribal. The majority of
development funds should be funneled to leaders to strengthen local
governance and development and pay the militias' salaries."
- It's All About Pakistan The New Yorker's Steve Coll emphasizes
the country wedged between Afghanistan and India. Coll explains how
withdrawal would destabilize Pakistan and how over-militarizing
Afghanistan would drive Pakistani leadership into the arms of the
Taliban. "Between withdrawal signals and blind militarization there is
sustainable strategy, one that I hope the Obama Administration is the
in the process of defining. It would make clear that the Taliban will
never be permitted to take power in Kabul or major cities. It would
seek and enforce stability in Afghan population centers but emphasize
politics over combat, urban stability over rural patrolling, Afghan
solutions over Western ones, and it would incorporate Pakistan more
directly into creative and persistent diplomatic efforts to stabilize
Afghanistan and the region."
- Oust Karzai and Fix Kabul Former Patraeus adviser David Kilcullen says
we need Afghan support, and that won't happen until President Hamid
Karzai is out and the government notorious corruption is addressed.
"Without essential reform, merely making the government more efficient
or extending its reach will just make things worse," he writes. "Only
a legitimately elected Afghan president can enact reforms, so at the
very least we need to see a genuine run-off election or an emergency
national council, called a loya jirga, before winter. Once a legitimate
president emerges, we need to see immediate action from him on a
publicly announced reform program, developed in consultation with
Afghan society and enforced by international monitors. Reforms should
include firing human rights abusers and drug traffickers, establishing
an independent authority to investigate citizen complaints and
requiring officials to live in the districts they are responsible for
(fewer than half do)."
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