The Center for American Progress has published a new position paper called, "Sustainable Security in Afghanistan." While there is nothing earth shattering, the report touches on some keys that have been notably absent from much of the higher-level national discussion in any meaningful way.
First, the call for a "civilian surge," while nothing new, is more detailed than just two words. Also, for the first time in a policy paper, (I may have missed something somewhere) there was an acknowledgment that the military strategy to this point has been "counter-terrorism," or what I have referred to as "counter-guerrilla." This is an acknowledgment that, despite the terminology used by military maneuver units on the ground, there has been little pop-centric COIN actually implemented.
More after the jump
Also there is a suggestion that NATO partners with "caveats" be called upon not for more military contributions, but civilian contributions; particularly in the area of governance. I have called for this in lieu of further pleas for military contributions, and I'm glad to see this in a policy paper.
Another edifying point is the call for a focused effort on the judicial system, and perhaps a bonding of tribal/local mechanisms with government writ as a way to facilitate this. Using the ANP as the Arbakai to enforce shura/jirga decisions has not been raised often in policy papers, and this one does so. I also strongly agree with the point that any "Sons of Afghanistan" effort is ill-advised and dangerous. As noted, it is the type of thing that gave rise to the Taliban initially. This call should be heeded.
The weakness of the effort to reform/rebuild the Afghan National Police was noted, and a recommendation to fully pursue manning of the mentoring program is made. Also good stuff.
Overall, this paper calls the spade a spade and puts forth some good recommendations that should be listened to. While some spades are called without a strong solution recommended, there were a few sacred cows that, if not slaughtered, were bled a bit.
Potentially the strongest point is that the "limited objectives" strategy is presented as a reasonable short-term strategy, while making the strong argument that if the long term goal of a self-sustained and stable Afghanistan is abandoned, there will be dire consequences in the future, including a waste being made of all the blood and treasure invested to this point. These consequences will affect both national safety and regional stability, particularly in Pakistan.
I did note the complete absence of any recommendation to undermine the Afghan government, an "initiative" which, if pursued, will also backfire. In fact, the call was strongly made to increase the legitimacy of the sitting Afghan government; part of which would entail strong efforts to attack corruption within that government. I strongly agree with the call to fully back the national elections.
Overall, I find myself in agreement with both the assessments of the current weaknesses and with the proposals to improve the situation in Afghanistan and the region in both the near and long terms.
Okay, so it wasn't "earth shattering," but there were some key points made that have not been strongly made in the national discussion of the way forward in Afghanistan and Central Asia. A number of things that I have felt strongly need to be said out loud have been said, and that is the first step to undertaking a solution.
Iraq: Proving Ground For Multi-Domain Battle
7 hours ago