Foreign Affairs Snapshot, December 15, 2011
In Afghanistan, even minimally accountable democracy may soon be beyond reach. If so, some form of constrained warlord rule will be the most that’s achievable.
Success in Afghanistan would not be as difficult or expensive as it was for the United States to win wars in Europe or counter the communist threat. Given the risks and the opportunities ahead, an investment in South Asia is worth making.
The drawdown in Afghanistan may be afoot, but racing for the exits will leave large parts of the country — especially around Kabul in the east — infested with insurgent havens.
The drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan will proceed rapidly through 2014. As a consequence, the mission will change sooner than many people expect, and that means the fledgling Afghan National Army has to take charge of the fight now.
Judged by any yardstick, Afghanistan has made little progress since 2001. The United States and its allies have bred an overly centralized and ineffective government in Kabul that is hooked on foreign aid and struggles against a resurgent Taliban. Without serious reforms, the next ten years could be worse.
In Afghanistan, the United States faces a choice: either establish a permanent administrative and security presence, or stand back and risk the country becoming a haven for organized criminals and terrorists. Staying forever won’t work, so Washington must accept the risks of withdrawal.
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is driven largely by domestic politics. That is a privilege of a country that is both rich and safe. But the United States has security interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan that, despite its best attempts, it will not be able to ignore.
Phi Beta Iota: Nowhere in this edition of Foreign Affairs is there any reference to an over-arching strategic model that is reality-based and focused on the public interest. Instead, what we have here are a variety of ideological viewpoints that are totally lacking in any sort of “true cost” accounting analytics.