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 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.”
By Ahmad Majidyar, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
A gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed three Australian soldiers in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday night, the latest in an alarming string of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks that have eroded morale and trust at a critical juncture as foreign troops are withdrawing and transitioning security to the Afghan lead. The deaths bring the number of foreign troops killed by Afghan allies, or by Taliban fighters disguised as them, to 45 this year, most of them Americans.
According to General John R. Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been responsible for one quarter of these attacks through infiltration, coercion and impersonation. The new threat has been a PR disaster for Kabul and Washington, but a propaganda victory for the Taliban. In his Eid al-Fitr message, the insurgent group’s reclusive leader Mullah Omar claimed his fighters had “cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy,” and that the Taliban had created the “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” department to encourage more defections.
By Sarah Chayes, CEIP
Editor’s note: Sarah Chayes is a senior associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, where this article was originally published, and former special adviser to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The views expressed are her own.
The United States and Pakistan have just signed a memorandum of understanding detailing conditions for reopening the border with Afghanistan to NATO transit traffic, closed after a friendly fire incident killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. Thousands of fuel tankers and gaudily caparisoned cargo trucks are untangling seven-month-old snarls at ports and windswept border posts, to lumber back onto the roads. But that breakthrough shouldn’t detract from the importance of another of Afghanistan’s neighbors: Uzbekistan.
By demonstrating to U.S. and allied officials the fragility of the critical Pakistan land route, the long blockade abruptly raised interest in Uzbekistan. Negotiating teams from key NATO countries have been cycling through Tashkent to hammer out details of bilateral transit agreements. But Uzbekistan is worthy of attention not just for its infrastructure, namely the Friendship Bridge across the Amu Darya River and the lone rail link to Afghanistan embedded in its tarmac. Uzbekistan’s president and much of its top leadership have held office since a year after the Soviets departed Afghanistan across that same bridge in 1989, and their personal relationships with key Afghan actors are long-standing and intimate, their insights into Afghan dynamics profound. And they, like many Afghans, seem already to be operating in a post-2014 world. Washington might have something to learn.
By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. He also teaches Afghan history to deploying U.S. Army units. The views expressed are solely those of the author.
More than a decade into the conflict, the Afghan war isn’t going well. Politically, Afghanistan is a mess. While some analysts still say the American counterinsurgency strategy works, Afghans beg to differ. Their country was safer ten years ago than it is today. The problem wasn’t the invasion itself, but rather than aftermath. The mission to deny terrorists a vacuum was essential, so where did the United States go wrong?
Here are the seven key mistakes the United States and its allies have made:
Rapidity of Reform. Cynics may say Afghanistan never changes, but that is nonsense. Afghanistan today is far different than it was 30 years ago, let alone a century ago. The fact is, Afghanistan changes: Just very slowly. The experience of Amanullah Khan in the first decades of the twentieth century and the Saur Revolution in 1978 demonstrate the correlation between rapidity of reform and insurgent backlash. Zahir Shah (r. 1933-1973), on the other hand, moved slower but presided over some of Afghanistan’s most successful reforms. It’s possible to bring good, representative governance to Afghanistan and perhaps even democracy. Just not on a Washington political timeline.
On GPS this week, Fareed had an exclusive interview with the top-ranking military officer in the U.S., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. Here's an additional, web-only excerpt with Dempsey's thoughts on the Taliban and closing Guantanamo Bay:
Fareed Zakaria: You said in Congressional testimony this week that you had some doubts about the reconciliation process in Afghanistan with the Taliban. Elaborate on that. Why do you have doubts at it? Everyone says we should be trying to get some kind of political deal with the Taliban so that we can stabilize the country and draw down forces.
Martin Dempsey: Well, I concede and am supportive of the effort because I concede that most every conflict that anyone has ever been involved with ends with some kind of political settlement.
I think there's no one Taliban. You know, there's big T and little T.
So to the extent that we can separate...the reconcilable aspects of the Taliban, with those who are irreconcilable, I think it's effort well taken.
If I'm worried about the immediate idea, it's because we might be addressing the ideological side of the Taliban before we get to those that might be a little bit less ideological. It's just not clear to me.
So it's not that I'm reluctant to try this. But it's pretty hard to be optimistic about it. FULL POST
Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University. Hayden is an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He held senior staff positions at the Pentagon and, from 1999 to 2005, was director of the National Security Agency.
By Michael V. Hayden - Special to CNN
The recent smartphone video of Marines urinating on the bodies of slain Taliban should trouble all Americans.
It is troubling even if allowances are made for young men - recently released from the high pressures of combat and in the euphoria of being successful and still being alive - doing dumb things. It should trouble us even allowing for the inevitable dehumanization of the enemy that often accompanies conflict.
Keeping the human aspect of an enemy in mind is more than just a moral imperative, though. It makes good operational and strategic sense. And in this, intelligence has a special role.
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. and Afghan officials have begun three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told theWall Street Journal on Wednesday. Karzai insisted the Taliban was committed to reaching a peace settlement. The negotiations follow a recent Taliban decision to open a diplomatic office in Qatar, which paved the way for preliminary talks with the United States. The talks also come amid efforts by the Obama administration to wind down the U.S. war in Afghanistan and begin withdrawing troops. Karzai, who arrived in Pakistan today, indicatedIslamabad's cooperation (NYT) would be crucial in securing a peace deal with the Taliban. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Candace Rondeaux is Crisis Group’s senior analyst based in Kabul, focusing on the ongoing conflict and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Before joining Crisis Group in 2009 she was the Islamabad/Kabul bureau chief for The Washington Post.
What is the current security situation in Afghanistan? Has it improved as top U.S. officials have claimed in recent weeks?
Candace Rondeaux: Since Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan, not very much has changed. The tempo of operations, as far as the Taliban and others associated with them is concerned, continues on. As it happens, when Osama was killed, the Taliban had just announced the opening of its spring offensive, so we all expect in Kabul and across Afghanistan that the tempo, the aggressiveness, will pick up as the summer months push on here.
I think that there is some anticipation that in the east, and also in the areas around Kabul, we’ll see a lot more insurgent activity in large part because some of those associated with al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network in particular, are moving across the border — in large part because they are being forced out by the drones, along with some other political reasons. We now expect that these fighters will enter the center of the country, which could cause real problems for security. FULL POST
Two weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the rift between Pakistan and the United States is as wide as ever. What can be done to stabilize the relationship? And what should be done to rein in the military's dominant role in Pakistan? Fareed weighs in with his take on how to right Pakistani ship.
Then, it’s a GPS tour of the world. A panel of experts weighs in on how the rest of world sees the death of Osama bin Laden, the state of America’s leadership, the U.S.economy and much more. Joining Fareed this week:
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and former Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State
There is a silly debate taking place in Washington about who deserves credit for Osama bin Laden's assassination - President Obama or President Bush.
John F. Kennedy once said that victory has a thousand fathers, so can we admit that lots of people - thousands beyond those two people - deserve credit?
The outcome is the culmination of years of intelligence and action, but this specific operation was obviously conceived, planned and executed by the Obama administration, which deserves genuine respect for handling it well.
But the real lesson that we should be drawing from it is that counterterrorism works. Counterterrorism is our most important and effective strategy in the war on terror. FULL POST