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  • Author: Daniel F. Runde, Earl Anthony Wayne
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: A precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would endanger many of the social, political, economic, and health gains that have been achieved in Afghanistan over nearly 20 years. Afghanistan has a myriad of problems, including corruption, violence, and poverty, but these challenges often overshadow improvements in mortality rates, media and cellular access, tax collection, and women and girls’ education and political freedoms, among others. To prevent these gains from dissipating, the international community should encourage the Afghan government to meet certain governance benchmarks and continue on its path to self-reliance. The United States and its international allies should also consider a gradual withdrawal of troops, funding for the Afghan security forces, and economic assistance, based on a timeline that reflects facts on the ground and progress on peace negotiations.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Military Strategy, State Building, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East
  • Author: Richard Olson, Daniel F. Runde
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: This brief presents a summary of key historical events in Afghanistan since 1989 and outlines a possible worst-case scenario following a U.S. and allied withdrawal from the country. The United States, Afghanistan, and its allies must work together in search for greater Afghan self-reliance, security, and stability in order to avoid a catastrophic scenario. Only then will Afghanistan be able to free itself of foreign presences and embark on its own journey to prosperity and self-reliance.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Governance, Hegemony, Military Affairs, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mark F. Cancian
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: When the United States invaded Afghanistan after the attacks on September 11, 2001, and then overthrew the Taliban regime, senior military officers were not predicting that the United States would be militarily involved 18 years later. Yet, after expending nearly $800 billion and suffering over 2,400 killed, the United States is still there, having achieved at best a stalemate. This CSIS report concludes that the mission in Afghanistan expanded from a limited focus on counterterrorism to a broad nation-building effort without discussion about the implications for the duration and intensity of the military campaign. This expansion occurred without considering the history of Afghanistan, the Soviet experience, and the decades-long effort required in successful nation-building efforts. The report makes a series of recommendations: improving the dialogue between senior military and civilian officials about desired goals/end states and the implied intensity/duration of a military campaign; continuing the development of military strategists; revising military doctrine publications to include discussion of choices about goals/end states; and taking more seriously the history and experience of others.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Conflict, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: It has been a long, grim war since the first U.S. troops appeared in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The fighting has now lasted close to 18 years, and the conflict has become one of the worst managed wars in American history. The effort to reinvent Afghan government as a functioning democracy has so far been an unstable nightmare mixing corruption and uncertain central leadership with power brokers, ex-warlords, and divided leadership. Efforts at economic growth and reform have fallen far short of their goals, vast sums have been wasted or lost through corruption, and the current Afghan economy now survives on the basis of outside aid and domestic narcotics exports. Major security efforts have at best produced an uncertain stalemate and one where the Afghan government increasingly seems to be losing control in the countryside in order to maintain its hold on major population centers. Three different Presidents have made major errors in overall strategy. President Bush gave priority to Iraq at the cost of giving the Afghan war proper attention and providing adequate forces to deal with the return of the Taliban. President Obama first authorized a surge — which wasted major resources in Helmand — and then called for a premature U.S. withdrawal based on totally unrealistic goals for Afghan force development. President Trump has adopted a strategy which has no clear political or economic element, and is unclear as to whether the U.S. is willing to keep supporting Afghan government military efforts or is giving priority to peace more as part of an effort to withdraw U.S. forces than to achieve a lasting and meaningful peace settlement. This report addresses the options for staying in Afghanistan, for reaching a cosmetic or real form of peace, and for some form of unilateral withdrawal. It describes the challenges in each area: the current stalemate in conflict and the debate over Afghan Government versus Taliban control, the critical problems in Afghan governance, the weaknesses in the Afghan economy, and the many remaining challenges in creating Afghan forces that can stand on their own. It addresses the challenges in cutting or removing U.S. land and air forces. Finally, it addresses critical problems in assessing and costing the current level of U.S. involvement in the war, and in estimating the future cost of supporting a peace or continuing the fighting.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Public Opinion, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, Asia, Vietnam, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: In fairness, peace almost always consists of a pause in the fighting that becomes a prelude to war. Taking modern Europe as an example, the Napoleonic wars were punctuated by failed peace attempts, and then led to the rise of Germany and a whole new series of wars with Austria, Denmark, and France. The repressive peace settlements following Europe’s upheavals in 1848 set the stage for decades of new rounds of conflict and revolution. World War I led to World War II, and then led to the Cold War and now to the Ukraine. Nevertheless, the current U.S. efforts to support peace negotiations in Afghanistan and the Middle East seem remarkably weak even by historical standards. In the case of Afghanistan, “peace” is being negotiated without even the same cosmetic level of local government participation that occurred in Vietnam. It is being negotiated when there is no political stability to build upon, and no apparent prospect that the coming election can bring real unity or effective leadership.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Afghan War has entered a critical period in which the U.S. is actively seeking a peace settlement with the Taliban, and doing so in spite of the fact that it is negotiating without the full participation of the Afghan government. Peace is a highly uncertain option. There are no official descriptions of the terms of the peace that the Administration is now seeking to negotiate, but media reports indicate that it may be considering a full withdrawal within a year of a ceasefire, and other reports indicate that it is considering a 50% cut in U.S. military personnel even if a peace is not negotiated. As of mid-August 2019, the Taliban has continued to reject any formal peace negotiations with the Afghan government, and has steadily stepped up its military activity and acts of violence while it negotiates with the United States. Terrorist groups like ISIS-K add to the threat, as do the many splits within the Afghani government and political structure. The Taliban has not encouraged further ceasefires, or shown any clear willingness to accept a lasting peace on any terms but its own. It may well see peace negotiations as a means of negotiating a withdrawal of U.S. and other allied forces and a prelude to a peace that it could exploit to win control of Afghanistan. At the same time, major uncertainties also exist regarding continuing support for the war. Some press reports indicate the Administration is seeking a 50% reduction in active U.S. military manpower in country by the end of 2019 or some point in mid-2020 regardless of whether a peace settlement is reached. Some members of Congress have called for major U.S. force cuts and shown only a limited willingness to keep up U.S. support of the Afghan government and forces if peace negotiations do not succeed. Much depends on current trends in the war, and the extent to which the Afghan Government or the Taliban are winning control and influence over the country. Much also depends on the degree to which the Afghan government forces can stand on their own if a peace negotiation leads to the withdrawal of U.S. and Resolute support forces, or if the U.S. makes major further force cuts.
  • Topic: Development, Military Strategy, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Afghan War has entered a critical period in which the U.S. is actively seeking a peace settlement with the Taliban, and doing so in spite of the fact that it is negotiating without the full participation of the Afghan government. Its options now consist of finding some form of peace, leaving the country without any form of victory or security, or fighting indefinitely in a country whose central government has no near or mid-term capability to either defeat its opponents or survive without massive military and civil aid. Peace is a highly uncertain option. There are no official descriptions of the terms of the peace that the Administration is now seeking to negotiate, but media reports indicate that it may be considering a full withdrawal of its military support within one to two years of a ceasefire, and other reports indicate that it is considering a 50% cut in U.S. military personnel even if a peace is not negotiated. As of late-August 2019, the Taliban continued to reject any formal peace negotiations with the Afghan government, and its military activity and acts of violence while it negotiated with the United States. Terrorist groups like ISIS-K add to the threat, as do the many splits within the Afghani government and political structure. The Taliban has not encouraged further ceasefires, or shown any clear willingness to accept a lasting peace on any terms but its own. It may well see peace negotiations as a means of negotiating a withdrawal of U.S. and other allied forces and a prelude to a peace that it could exploit to win control of Afghanistan. At the same time, the other options are no better. They either mean leaving without a peace and the near certain collapse of the Afghan government, or continuing the war indefinitely with no clear timeframe for victory or the emergence of an Afghan government that can fight on its own or act as an effective civil government. Much of the analysis of these three options has focused on the possible terms of the peace, the immediate progress in the fighting, and/or the coming Afghan election and Afghanistan’s immediate political problems. These are all important issues, but they do not address the basic problems in Afghan security forces that will limit its military capabilities indefinitely into the future, or the scale of the civil problems in Afghanistan that have given it failed governance and made it the equivalent of a failed state, and that will shape its future in actually implementing any peace or in attempting to continue the war.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: On December 29, 2014, the US President and Secretary of Defense announced the formal end to Operation Enduring Freedom, its combat mission in Afghanistan, which had begun in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. They also stated that the US would begin its follow-on mission, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, at the start of 2015.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Defense Policy, International Security, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Creating political unity and reasons to be loyal to government. Creating a new structure of governance and balance between factions. Effective revenue collection, budget planning and expenditure, and limits to corruption. Fully replacing NATO/ISAF with the ANSF and "layered defense". Creating a new structure of security forces, advisors, and aid funds, to include addressing the presence of US and other nations' personnel. Acting on the Tokyo Conference: Creating effective flow and use of aid, economic reform, and limits to corruption and waste Stabilizing a market economy driven by military spending and moving towards development: Brain drain and capital flight. Coping with weather and other challenges to agricultural structure and with pressures to increase the narco - economy. Dealing with neighbors: Pakistan, I ran, Central Asian nations, India, China, and Russia.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Military Strategy, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, South Asia, India, North America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Creating an effective transition for the ANSF is only one of the major challenges that Afghanistan, the US, and Afghanistan's other allies face during 2014-2015 and beyond. The five other key challenges include: Going from an uncertain election to effective leadership and political cohesion and unity. Creating an effective and popular structure governance, with suitable reforms, from the local to central government, reducing corruption to acceptable levels, and making suitable progress in planning, budgeting, and budget execution. Coping with the coming major cuts in outside aid and military spending in Afghanistan, adapting to a largely self - financed economy, developing renewal world economic development plans, carrying out the reforms pledged at the Tokyo Conference, and reducing the many barriers to doing business. Establishing relations with Pakistan and other neighbors that will limit outside pressures and threats, and insurgent sanctuaries on Afghanistan's border. Persuading the US, other donors, NGCO, and nations will to provide advisors to furnish the needed aid effort through at least 2018, and probably well beyond.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia