What To Do About Afghanistan


Dave Barno, Andrew Exum, and Matt Irvine propose [pdf] a new mission:

It is time for a change of mission in Afghanistan. U.S. and coalition forces must shift away from directly conducting counterinsurgency operations and toward a new mission of “security force assistance:” advising and enabling Afghan forces to take the lead in the counterinsurgency fight. This shift is more than rhetorical. With a 2014 transition looming in Afghanistan, U.S. and allied military leaders must recognize that U.S. and coalition forces will not defeat the Taliban and its allies in the next three years. Instead, they must direct the military effort toward working by, with and through the Afghans. This effort will protect long-term U.S. security interests without a never-ending commitment of immense U.S. resources.

Gulliver, who mostly agrees with the report's conclusion, vents about some of its authors' past support for the current strategy:

COIN advocates insisted the 2009 escalation would be accompanied by a renewed commitment to generating and training capable Afghan security forces, but it didn't happen; the "surge" in combat and stability operations instead starved those efforts of the personnel, resources, and command emphasis they needed to succeed in parallel. The authors have diagnosed the problem properly, though they don't clearly state this conclusion.

(Photo: Silhouetted Afghan National Army [ANA] soldiers are seen during a ceremony to hand over security control in the city of Charikar in Parwan province on December 1, 2011. The second wave of Afghanistan's transition from foreign to local control officially started on December 1 as NATO forces handed over most of a peaceful province to Afghan authorities. All bar two districts of Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, are being handed to Afghan control. By Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images.)