May 06, 2010

Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan

By Andrew M. Exum

This report notes that America's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan has focused more on waging war at the operational and tactical levels at the expense of the strategic and political levels.

“In the end, by having so vocally and materially committed to the Karzai regime, the United States and its allies are tied to its successes and failures. The goal, then, should be to maximize the former and minimize the latter through focused application of U.S. leverage,” writes CNAS Fellow and author Andrew Exum.  “Designing a political campaign minimizes the role luck plays in whether the United States and its allies are successful.”

By drawing on research conducted through hundreds of interviews with U.S. and NATO military officers and diplomats, policymakers and NGOs in Afghanistan, Exum offers recommendations to design an effective political campaign:

1. Convene another strategic review to assess the civilian strategy, not the U.S. and allied military strategy, in Afghanistan. President Obama should ask the tough questions to his secretaries and envoys that he asked his military commander – General Stanley McChrystal – to answer in his fall 2009 review.

2. Build a functioning relationship with Hamid Karzai and demonstrate to the Afghan president that he has an enduring partner in the United States and its allies.

3. Use U.S. and allied leverage to press the government of Afghanistan to either hold elections for district governors or appoint competent governors from Kabul. Effective local governance is a prerequisite for U.S. and allied forces to institute aid and development projects that are essential to addressing the factors driving conflict and violence at the local level.

Authors

  • Andrew M. Exum

  • Commentary
    • The Washington Post
    • November 14, 2019
    Trump was right to abandon the Taliban peace deal. Here’s what a good one would look like.

    Two months after President Trump declared U.S.-Taliban peace talks “dead,” diplomacy with the Afghan insurgents is reviving. With the administration already having negotiated ...

    By David H. Petraeus & Vance Serchuk

  • Commentary
    • Defense One
    • September 17, 2019
    The U.S. Military is Not, and Can Never Be, Afghanistan’s Police

    In 1829, the father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, established “Peel’s Principles” to describe the role of police at large. Almost 200 years later, policing has changed ...

    By COL Sarah Albrycht

  • Podcast
    • September 10, 2019
    Ending the war in Afghanistan

    Christopher D. Kolenda joins The World and Everything in It to discuss the latest developments in talks between the United States and the Taliban. Listen to the full conversa...

    By Christopher D. Kolenda

  • Podcast
    • August 30, 2019
    The Key Role Pakistan Is Playing In U.S.-Taliban Talks

    A bomb parked under the preacher's pulpit in a mosque likely had a high-profile target: a brother of the Taliban leader. It was seen by the Taliban as a warning to stop their ...

    By Stephen Tankel

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia