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  • Author: Michael O'Hanlon
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Stephen Biddle and Karl Eikenberry are outstanding public servants and scholars, but their respective articles on Afghanistan (“Ending the War in Afghanistan” and “The Limits of Counter­insurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan,” September/October 2013) convey excessively negative assessments of how the war is going and of Afghanistan's prospects. Their arguments could reinforce the current American malaise about the ongoing effort and thereby reduce the odds that the United States will continue to play a role in Afghanistan after the current NATO-led security mission there ends in December 2014. That would be regrettable; the United States should lock in and solidify its gains in Afghanistan, not cut its losses.
  • Topic: NATO, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Carter Malkasian, J. Kael Weston
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States, facing deepening economic and fiscal woes at home, is preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan. More and more policymakers, congressional representatives, and members of the public are calling for the majority of U.S. forces to pull out as quickly as possible and for Washington to shift from an expensive counterinsurgency strategy, in which tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops protect the Afghan population, to a cheaper counterterrorism strategy, in which special operations forces strike at terrorist leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Afghans are left largely on their own. The counterinsurgency strategy began in earnest in 2009, when the United States raised its total number of troops in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000. This Afghan surge led to tactical success: Kandahar and Helmand were largely secured, and the number of Afghan police and army soldiers nearly doubled. But it was expensive. In 2011, the U.S. Congress authorized nearly $114 billion for the effort, roughly a fourth of the entire cost of the Afghan war since 2001. Given the current economic climate, such high annual outlays are no longer sustainable. Last June, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that 33,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012 and that Afghan forces will take the lead in the country's security by the end of 2014. Although it remains undecided exactly how fast the withdrawal will proceed after 2012 and what sort of U.S. presence will remain after 2014, Washington is facing strong domestic pressure to bring its troops home and to focus on rebuilding the economy. At first glance, shifting to counterterrorism would seem the best way to meet this goal. A counterterrorism approach would cut costs by pulling out most U.S. ground troops. Special operations forces would remain in the larger bases, with responsibility for launching missions to kill or capture al Qaeda members, high-level Taliban figures, and leaders of the Haqqani network. What is more, the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May seemed to give this approach credibility by suggesting that knocking out al Qaeda -- the primary reason why the United States entered Afghanistan in the first place -- does not require tens of thousands of U.S. troops.
  • Topic: NATO
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Thomas Barfield
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In late 2001,when U.S. forces expelled the Taliban from Afghanistan, the country appeared headed for a breakup. The United States and the rest of the international community feared that Afghanistan's rival ethnic groups would use their regional power bases to pull apart any unitary state, forming in its place independent ministates or aligning with their ethnic brethren across Afghanistan's borders. At the time, such fears seemed credible: NATO troops were still dealing with the fallout from the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The Afghans themselves, however, were less concerned about their country dividing. After all, Afghanistan has been a single state for more than 250 years. If the country were going to split, it would have done so in the 1990s, during its protracted civil war. Yet it did not. No Afghan leader of any political stripe or ethnicity endorsed secession at any time during the last century. Nor did any at the start of this one. Although Afghanistan's various ethnic factions disagreed about how the country's new government should be organized and who would wield power within it, they all proclaimed their support for a unitary state. A decade later, the anxiety of Washington and its allies has reversed itself. If in 2001 the West was afraid that the absence of a strong centralized government in Kabul would prompt Afghanistan's dissolution, by 2011 the West has come to fear that a dysfunctional centralized government could cause this same outcome. Such a turn of events was caused by several factors, perhaps most of all by many Afghans' dissatisfaction with a centralized national administrative structure that cannot cope with the country's regional diversity or with expectations for local self-rule. The government in Kabul has been further undermined by the country's fraudulent 2009 presidential election, the absence of political parties, poor security, and general corruption.
  • Topic: NATO, Corruption
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Paul K. MacDonald, Joseph M. Parent
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States can no longer afford a world-spanning foreign policy. Retrenchment -- cutting military spending, redefining foreign priorities, and shifting more of the defense burden to allies -- is the only sensible course. Luckily, that does not have to spell instability abroad. History shows that pausing to recharge national batteries can renew a dominant power's international legitimacy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Cold War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Washington