By Max Boot, CFR.org
Afghanistan is facing a crisis of confidence in its future. In 2014, the only president the country has known in the post-Taliban era, Hamid Karzai, is due to leave office; there is no front-runner to succeed him and it is not clear whether it will be possible to hold an honest and secure election. More significantly, that same year, the bulk of the Western troops, currently 130,000 strong (including 90,000 Americans), are also supposed to depart. The Taliban, meanwhile, has been weakened, but remains secure in its Pakistan redoubts. Whether the Afghan National Security Forces will remain strong enough to fend them off largely on their own remains unknown. Many Afghans fear the answer is no. That is why home prices in Kabul are declining, capital flight is increasing, and there is growing talk of emigration among the country's elites.
Will the signing of a U.S.-Afghan security partnership agreement, announced Sunday, dispel those doubts? Not likely. To be sure, it is good step forward. That the American and Afghan governments were able to overcome their differences, especially on the controversial issues of "night raids" and detentions of Afghan suspects by U.S. authorities, is certainly positive. That the United States is promising to remain committed in Afghanistan to some degree at least until 2024 is another vote of confidence in the country's future. But much remains unknown about the American commitment. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This post is one of four from the Council on Foreign Relations in response to the question, Was the Iraq War worth it?
By Max Boot
Critics will claim that no gains could be worth the price we paid - over 4,400 lost lives and untold hundreds of billions of dollars. But we paid a far higher price in the Korean War (36,000 dead). Few would have thought in 1953 that this war, which ended with a deadlocked and ravaged peninsula, was a raging success. The outcome looks considerably better nearly six decades later, now that South Korea has become one of the most prosperous and freest countries in the world.
It is wildly premature to claim that Iraq could become another South Korea - although the latter started off far poorer than the former and had just as little experience with democracy (which is to say none). Yet it is not out of the realm of possibility. FULL POST
It is hard - no, impossible - to see any strategic or military reason why President Barack Obama would decide to remove thirty thousand surge troops from Afghanistan by September 2012.
The full surge force only arrived in late fall of 2010. Since then, the troops have done yeoman work in securing the southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where the Taliban was born and which it has long dominated. But, as the military likes to say, those gains are "fragile and reversible." They are also incomplete.
By Max Boot, CFR
What does the death of Osama bin Laden mean for the war in Afghanistan?
The positive impact is obvious: bin Laden had a close alliance with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. No doubt many Taliban and associated operatives (e.g., in the Haqqani network) viewed bin Laden as a great holy warrior who charted the way forward in the battle against infidels, crusaders, and Zionists. His death could, therefore, strike a significant psychological blow against insurgents. It may also have more direct repercussions. If bin Laden was still acting, as he had in the past, as a key intermediary between the Taliban and its wealthy Persian Gulf backers, then his death would clearly interrupt the flow of funding.
But oddly enough, bin Laden's death may also be a setback for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, at least in the West. In justifying his surge in Afghanistan, President Obama has put too much rhetorical weight on the need to counter al Qaeda. The president has repeatedly claimed that all we were doing in Afghanistan was denying al Qaeda the ability to use that country as a sanctuary. With bin Laden dead, many Americans may decide that the threat from al Qaeda is also gone and that we can afford to draw down in Afghanistan. Not so.