February 01, 2008

Afghan Study Group: The Wheels Done Come Off

WASHINGTON -- The international effort to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering and urgently needs thousands of additional U.S. and coalition troops, an influential group of American diplomatic and military experts concluded in a report issued Wednesday.

The independent study finds that the Taliban, which two years ago was largely viewed as a defeated movement, has been able to infiltrate and control sizable parts of southern and southeastern Afghanistan, leading to widespread disillusionment among Afghans with the mission.

"The prospect of again losing significant parts of Afghanistan to the forces of Islamic extremists has moved from the improbable to the possible," the study says, warning that Afghanistan could revert to a "failed state."

The report is critical of nearly every governmental and international organization involved in Afghanistan, including the Bush administration, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, calling their efforts inadequate, poorly coordinated and occasionally self-defeating.

Kip is on his way to Disney World right now (What, did he win the %$#@ing Super Bowl? Oh, he just got back from Afghanistan. Have fun, Kip!), so it's up to Abu Muqawama to post excerpts from the recently released Jones/Pickering report into our continuing failures in what may soon be a failed state. Again. Anyway, the report starts out cheery enough:

The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country. The United States and the international community have tried to win the struggle in Afghanistan with too few military forces and insufficient economic aid, and without a clear and consistent comprehensive strategy to fill the power vacuum outside Kabul and to counter the combined challenges of reconstituted Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a runaway opium economy, and the stark poverty faced by most Afghans.

Lovely! Some key recommendations, then:

Appoint a high-level international coordinator under a UN mandate to: advise all parties to the mission in Afghanistan on needed changes to their policies, funding and actions; ensure that all international assistance programs have a coordinated strategy that aims to bolster the central government’s authority throughout the country and is closely coordinated with the Afghan government; advise on the implications to and needs for security coordination; and conduct dialogue with Afghanistan’s neighbors. Assign to this individual a joint professional staff representing a wide range of partnering countries and organizations in Afghanistan.

(Guess we shouldn't have slammed the door in Paddy Pantsdown's face this week.)

Work to increase the number of NATO troops and military equipment in Afghanistan to the levels requested by the commanders. Ensure that the increase in quantity of forces is matched with the quality of the forces that is needed for the mission they need to perform. We endorse the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group that “It is critical for the United States to provide additional…military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.”

(This will not help.)

While “zero civilian casualties” may not be an attainable goal given the nature of the enemy and the battlefield, the U.S. and NATO should, as a matter of policy, continue to publicly reinforce their goal of minimizing civilian casualties, as well as being judicious in the frequent use of air power, erring on the side of caution when civilian casualties are probable.

(You might want to consider getting rid of Bomber McNeill if you're serious about this. By the way, readers, google "Bomber McNeill" sometime. Hilarious.)

Embark on a sustained, long-term diplomatic effort to reduce antagonisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As part of that, the international community should: encourage Kabul to accept the Durand Line as the international border; work with Pakistan to make every effort to root out Taliban ideology from its own society and close down the extremist madrassahs (religious schools) and training camps that perpetuate the Taliban insurgency and cross-border activities; and encourage Pakistan to remove burdensome restrictions that inhibit the transportation of goods through Pakistan to and from Afghanistan, including from India.

(Is that all? Shit, we would have that done by next week if you put Abu Muqawama, Kip, and Charlie in charge. But can you wait for Kip to get back from Disney World? He's kinda got his hands tied with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at the moment.)

The bottom line?

The mission to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering.

Great. Next time, tell us something we don't know. If someone can find an html link to this damn thing, let us know. We only have the pdf version.

By the way, have you guys read this book yet?

Abu Muqawama and his roommate are in a vicious fight over it at the moment.

Update: Be sure to check out the debate to which you should all be paying attention right now. Hint: it doesn't involve any presidential candidates.