U.S. President Donald Trump recently gave a speech on "the path forward" in Afghanistan and South Asia. President Trump ordered the deployment of about 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberation within the Trump administration, involving top military commanders, political advisers and even enlisted veterans of the nearly 16-year war.
There is surely no greater sign of the bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy than its Afghanistan policy. After more than 15 years of war and the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops, a new president entered the Oval Office poised to fundamentally change that policy. Within months he presented, with great fanfare, a continuation of the same.
Three American presidents have spent nearly 16 years alternately cajoling, coaxing, threatening and bombing Pakistan, all with a goal of trying to change the Pakistani government’s decisions about the factions it supports in Afghanistan’s desperate civil war.
As the Trump administration completes its review of policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, public debate is focused on the war’s military component, including President Trump’s decision to delegate decisions on troop levels to the Pentagon. Yet a few thousand more troops alone will be insufficient to end the war. A security plan, including the anticipated troop increase, must be combined with a political strategy that addresses Afghan domestic and regional factors fueling the war.
To understand why the United States is stalemated in Afghanistan, one needs only read the testimony of General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 9, 2017. General Nicholson discussed the number and disposition of troops that might improve the terms of the current stalemate. This is the one factor General Nicholson can affect. Despite the tremendous sacrifices it will entail from the Afghan forces, it has little bearing on the war’s outcome.
India’s decision to boycott China’s Belt and Road Forum has reinvigorated the much-needed debate on the strategic relationship between the two Asian giants. This debate comes on the heels of the February 23, 2017 India-China Strategic Dialogue in Beijing, where the two states found, among their divergences, a convergence on Afghanistan that contradicts some of Delhi’s received wisdom.
Over the past decade the United States and the international community have funded an unprecedented private security industry in Afghanistan. As a result, this industry has become entangled with the Afghan political economy, as international spending has been implicated in funding informal armed groups and commanders. Considerable uncertainty remains as Afghanistan approaches the 2014 deadline for assuming national security responsibilities.
Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are researchers and writers based in Kandahar. They have worked in Afghanistan since 2006, focusing on the Taliban insurgency and the history of southern Afghanistan over the past four decades. This paper published by CIC, expands on the following key findings:
This report by Jonathan Caulkins, Mark Kleiman, and Jonathan Kulick contributes to the ongoing debate about counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan, and in relation to counter-insurgency operations by adding a heretofore missing element–applied economic analysis of the effect of counter-narcotics policies. It does so by applying to a stylized depiction of the Afghan situation a standard model that economists and policy analysts have applied to a large range of policy areas.