By Javid Ahmad, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Javid Ahmad is a program coordinator for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The views expressed here are his own.
Now that President Barack Obama has been reelected for a second term, the White House is reportedly reevaluating its mission in Afghanistan, once again igniting the debate over the level of residual American forces that will remain in the country after 2014. That date marks the point when the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – which includes the army and the police – take the lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. And, while the exact size of the post-2014 deployment is still unclear, it seems the number of residual American troops might range from between 10,000 and 15,000, in addition to a few thousand international troops.
The transition process is incredibly delicate, as it will be important to ensure that the Afghan army and the police are in a position to manage Afghanistan’s security. This means determining the precise role of residual troops, the type of missions they will conduct, the number of bases they will require, and just as importantly, the nature of their relationship with the Afghan government, the ANSF, and the Afghan people. Some of these ambiguities will be clarified in a bilateral security pact between Kabul and Washington, expected to be concluded by May 2013.
By Moeed Yusuf & Thomas Lynch, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Moeed Yusuf is the South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace and Thomas Lynch is a distinguished research fellow at National Defense University. The opinions expressed here are theirs alone, not those of their institutions or the U.S. government.
U.S. peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan ultimately depend on a holistic, regional approach that mostly involves India and Pakistan.
In 2014, Afghanistan faces both the drawdown of American forces and the election of President Hamid Karzai’s successor, both significant transitions. The bid to create a stable post-2014 Afghanistan can only go so far without dealing directly with the intense rivalry between India and Pakistan – vested neighbors and nuclear regional kingpins. Yet despite recent positive overtures between the two sides, Pakistan continues to be deeply troubled by an increased Indian presence on its western border, while India is adamant to prevent Pakistan’s complete hold over Afghanistan.
By Gareth Price, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gareth Price is senior research fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit this week to India highlighted the strengthening relationship between the two countries. While India has invested heavily in a range of development projects in Afghanistan since 2002, its emergence as a political player is relatively new, considering that as recently as January 2010, and under Pakistani pressure, India was excluded from a conference in Istanbul discussing security in Afghanistan. Deteriorating relations between the United States and Pakistan, and the subsequent announcement of 2014 as the year of “transition” changed the West’s attitude towards India’s role. By June of this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was urging India to play a more active role in Afghanistan.
While there had been speculation prior to Karzai’s India visit that the two countries would agree to scale up training of Afghan army officers, in the end the main focus was on economic engagement. Under the Istanbul process of regional engagement, India had already agreed to lead work on increasing regional interaction among chambers of commerce, and on commercial opportunities in the region. It has also hosted an investment summit for Afghanistan. On the trip, Karzai reiterated that Afghanistan was open to Indian business.
By Javid Ahmad, Special CNN
Editor’s note: Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is a program coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own.
The war in Afghanistan was largely ignored in the lead up to the U.S. presidential election. But with a second term now confirmed for President Barack Obama, Kabul is once again vying for Washington’s attention.
Over the next two years, Afghanistan faces three important transitions – political, security, and economic – of which the viability of all are dependent upon U.S. financial commitment. A bilateral security agreement is currently being negotiated between Washington and Kabul, and this will supersede the current status of forces agreement and guarantee a lighter military footprint for the foreseeable future to assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and pursue counterterrorism objectives. And, while Afghanistan’s donor-drunk economy will continue to rely on open-ended financial support from foreign donors for some years, the country’s political transition seems to be on track, with the next presidential vote set for April 5, 2014.
But in the immediate future, the key challenge for Washington is to revitalize the stalled peace talks with the Taliban, discussions that could help put an end to the ongoing deadly confrontations. If withdrawing responsibly in 2014 is indeed high on President Obama’s agenda, then he has little choice but to prioritize and accelerate the peace talks, negotiate a ceasefire between all sides, and reach a settlement that ensures that the Taliban lay down their weapons. If Washington is not serious about pursuing such talks, it should be talking about possible contingencies should post-2014 plans not go as hoped.
Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.
Keep Arab Spring on track
By Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.
In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.
By Global Public Square
From a distance, this object looks like a dandelion. Up close, it looks like some kind of oddball of toilet plungers. So what is it? It’s called Mine Kafon, and it is a wind-powered landmine clearing device. That’s right – propelled by the wind, it is meant to roll around landmine danger areas until it finds one.
Watch the video to find out more.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had plenty to discuss at Monday night's foreign policy match-up:
There's an ongoing war in Afghanistan, civil war in Syria and a tense standoff between Iran and Israel. Terrorism is still an issue, as evidenced by the recent embassy attack in Libya. And then there is a perceived threat from China.
But what are the facts behind the claims made by the candidates? Here's a round-up of CNN's fact checks from Monday's debate:
2014 AFGHANISTAN DEADLINE
Obama accused Romney of initially being against a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
The claim: "In the same way that you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan, now you're for it, although it depends," Obama said. FULL POST
By Michael O'Hanlon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings (where he was a colleague of Rice’s for several years), teaches at Princeton and Columbia and Johns Hopkins and is a member of the CIA External Advisory Board. The views expressed are his own.
Beyond the issue of Benghazi, where as I wrote earlier this week I hope that tempers begin to cool and the September 11 tragedy begins to be placed in more reasonable perspective, I have two major concerns that can be posed in the form of a probing question to each candidate before Monday’s final presidential debate.
Time for Afghanistan clarity
For President Obama, having heard the vice presidential debate and Mr. Biden’s repeated statements that U.S. forces will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, is it not true that this is in fact contrary to administration policy?
By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN
Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at Brookings and author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. The views expressed are his own.
A few weeks ago, Ryan Crocker visited Washington after completing his year-long tour as U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, as well as a storied 38-year career in the Foreign Service during which he also served as ambassador to Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. While Washington was caught up in everything from the Benghazi attacks to the presidential race to Congress’s brief visit to town before adjourning again to campaign, Crocker’s visit – and the subject of Afghanistan in particular – got relatively little notice.
That is regrettable. Crocker’s speech at the Carnegie Endowment on September 17, covered by CSPAN, and his public conversation with us at Brookings on September 18 were hugely informative and important. For those despondent about this war effort, they were moderately encouraging as well. There was, as usual, no naive optimism in Crocker’s remarks, no promise of an easy and quick win. Known affectionately if somewhat sardonically as “Mr. Sunshine,” a nickname first given him by President Bush, Crocker is famous for hard-hitting and extremely realistic assessments of the challenges facing America abroad. Those lucky enough to visit Iraq during the surge often remember a beaming Dave Petraeus standing beside a grim-faced Crocker, two very different personalities leading America’s greatest military turnaround since Inchon. So any hopeful words from Crocker merit particular attention.
By Ahmad Majidyar, Special to CNN
Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan has suffered serious setbacks recently. The Taliban’s audacious September 14 attack on a major coalition base in Helmand Province suggested that the security gains in the south remain fragile and reversible, and that the insurgents are trying to make a comeback as foreign troops are withdrawing. Moreover, the alarming rise in insider attacks forced the U.S. and its allies to restrict joint operations with Afghan troops. These developments should alarm Washington as they undermine the security transition to the Afghan lead and the U.S. exit strategy. But on really placating war weary voters, both presidential candidates remain silent on America’s longest war. Mitt Romney made no mention of Afghanistan in his nomination speech, while President Obama only talks about his exit plan.
Yet there is much at stake in Afghanistan. A precipitous U.S. disengagement would allow the Taliban and al-Qaeda to reconstitute in southern and eastern provinces and plot against America and its allies. The United States can succeed in Afghanistan, but it needs to pursue a strategy that focuses more on success than just the endgame and withdrawal. There are five things the next president should do to sustain the gains of the past decade and ensure that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for global terrorism once again:
By Letta Tayler, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Letta Tayler is a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are the author's own.
As the world was gripped this week by the storming of U.S. diplomatic compounds in the Middle East, another troubling event that coincided with the September 11 anniversary unfolded largely unnoticed at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
There, a prisoner found dead in his cell over the weekend was identified Tuesday as Adnan Latif, a Yemeni who had been cleared for transfer five years earlier. Latif’s death should serve as a wake-up call for the United States to change its tarnished response to 9/11 by closing Guantanamo, even as it grapples with the horrifying attacks on its missions in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
Latif, 32, had reportedly been suicidal for most of the decade he spent at Guantanamo. Year after year, the U.S. government maintained he had trained and fought with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but never formally charged him with any crime. U.S. officials said he was found unresponsive in his cell on Saturday and did not respond to emergency treatment.
By Brad Adams, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Brad Adams is the Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.
The Afghanistan government appears to have a new policy for dealing with government officials accused of sadistic torture: it rewards them with job promotions.
President Hamid Karzai has announced that he will appoint Asadullah Khalid as chief of Afghanistan’s main intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Khalid is no garden variety spy chief. The current minister of border and tribal affairs and former governor of Kandahar and Ghazni provinces, he has been accused of running an unauthorized secret prison in Kandahar where torture was routine. Parliamentary confirmation is by no means a sure thing, but Karzai regularly circumvents parliament’s control over cabinet appointments by leaving government officials in an acting capacity for years.
“This will take the NDS back 10 years, to when they could do anything they wanted while everyone looked the other way, as long as they were killing Talibs,” a diplomat with many years’ experience in Afghanistan told Human Rights Watch. “If the U.S. doesn’t stand up and fight this, it will prove that they have lost all interest in human rights and the rule of law in Afghanistan.”