April 06, 2008

Strategic Failure in Afghanistan

Kip is constantly shocked to hear that we have no strategy in Afghanistan.

After all, the Afghanistan Compact of 2006 explicitly lays out the goals and conditions of ongoing international support to Afghanistan. Moreover, the Afghanistan National Development Strategy was intended to build Afghan government consensus for achieving the goals of the Compact.

Now, in order to have a functioning National Strategy in Afghanistan, we would have to support the almost nil capacity of the Afghan government to support it. In Today's Washington Times Ronald E. Neumann, former ambassador to Afghanistan gives an idea of incremental change in order to support the ability of the Afghan government to carry out reforms as well as to free up US funds for more rapid use in the country.

However, while ISAF has paid lip-service to four major lines of operation in Afghanistan: Security, Economic Development and Reconstruction, Governance, and Information Operations, is has never developed a national strategy that ties together these efforts. Essentially, everybody does security, the PRTs do a little Governance support and Economic Development and Reconstruction (although national and service caveats mean that many of the PRTniks rarely actually see any of their work), and no one does information operations worth discussing--publishing a newspaper in an illiterate country does not count as IO.

Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence of this (besides Bomber McNeill berating Dr. Nadiri , senior Afghanistan National Development Strategy adviser to President Karzai, in public forums) is recent reporting that the International Monetary Fund seems poised to declare the Afghanistan National Development Strategy a failure, which in turn would threaten in theory some of its access to funding.

ISAF has never taken seriously the Development Strategy. The CJ 9 (Civil Affairs) shop at ISAF was run for much of 2007 by a Marine Corps Colonel who did not even understand that CJSOTF and CSTC-A were a part of Operation Enduring Freedom much less the role of the Development Strategy in establishing a comprehensive approach to achieving stability in Afghanistan. Meetings dedicated to the "Comprehensive Approach" and run by the CJ5 (future plans) were by all accounts show-and-tell affairs in which major International Organizations told ISAF what it was that they saw as their role in the country.

Commanders in Afghanistan have by-and-large not heard of the Afghanistan Compact nor the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, even as the former lays out explicit measures of effectiveness for the campaign in Afghanistan.

Senior Commanders both at CSTC-A and at ISAF have not taken the Strategy seriously as the Compact did not deal very effectively with the Security line of operation. Yet, the majority of funding and support to Afghanistan comes in the form of direct or indirect contributions to the security sector. If that support is not rationally embedded into an overarching political framework, it is due to fail. Knowing this, the security players still aren't sitting at the table of their own accord--and then complaining subsequently that the security sector of the strategy is weak.

This is foolish, and the impending doom of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy is further proof that it is time after six years that Afghanistan too has its Petraeus.

(here for my previous post on narcotics and the Afghanistan National Development Strategy)