As Afghanistan prepares for its presidential election in April 2014 and as US and NATO forces get ready to end their combat mission there by the close of 2014, perceptions that the country is a lost cause are on the rise. Former ISAF commander, General John Allen, USMC (Ret.), former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O'Hanlon challenge these assessments in their new report Toward a Successful Outcome in Afghanistan, released today by the Center for a New American Security.
The authors note that based on their recent experiences and observations in Afghanistan, they were buoyed by "the impressive progress of the Afghan security forces and the significant strides made in areas such as agriculture, health and education, combined with the promising pool of human capital that is increasingly influential within the country..." They state that the United States can "achieve its strategic objectives in Afghanistan" but add that, to do so, Washington must "adequately resource its current policy course" and Afghan partners must successfully navigate "the shoals of their presidential election and transition in 2014." General Allen, Ms. Flournoy and Dr. O'Hanlon caution the Obama Administration and its international partners against accelerating disengagement prior to 2014 and under-resourcing their commitment to Afghanistan after 2014. "Future American policy," they argue, should be "motivated not by a desire to cut losses but with a determination to lock in hard-fought gains." The authors also encourage the Afghans to ensure "a reasonable level of electoral integrity and political progress" if international support is to continue and urge both Washington and Kabul "to clarify and solidify their commitment to an enduring partnership as soon as possible."