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  • DEFINING SUCCESSINAFGHANISTANFREDERICK W. KAGANKIMBERLY KAGANWITHJEFFREY DRESSLERANDCARL FORSBERGA REPORT BY THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTEAND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WARAll rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.©2011 by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War.Defining Success inAfghanistanFrederick W. KaganKimberly KaganwithJeffrey Dressler and Carl ForsbergA Report by the American Enterprise Instituteand the Institute for the Study of WarAcknowledgementsThis report was crafted with the support of numerous individuals, including a group
  • ofexperts gathered in December, 2010 at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Thestaffs of AEI and the Institute for the Study of War contributed vital information andanalysis to this report, and for that and their efforts to further our nation’s interestsandsecurity, we are enormously grateful. In particular, we thank Marisa CochraneSullivan,Maseh Zarif, Reza Jan, Katherine Zimmerman, Ahmad Majidyar and Tim Sullivan.Asalways, credit belongs to many, but the contents of this report represent the views ofthe authors alone.executive summarySuccess in Afghanistan is the establishment of a political order, security situation,and indigenous security force that is stable, viable, enduring, and able—withgreatly reduced international support—to prevent Afghanistan from being a safehaven for international terrorists. The current American and Coalition strategyis making progress and should be continued. Since President Obama, NATOallies, and the Afghans have agreed that troops will be present in Afghanistanthrough 2014, the policy does not require substantial modifications at this point.This paper is thus primarily a report on the current situation in Afghanistan anda consideration of some of the prospects and challenges ahead. Our principalrecommendation is that the U.S. and its allies should continue to resource andsustain the strategy now being executed, which is the only approach that cansecure their vital national security interests in Afghanistan.
  • Situation Update• The New Year finds the situation in southern Afghanistan fundamentally dif-ferent from what it was at the start of 2010.o The Taliban has lost almost all of its principal safe havens in this area.o Its ability to acquire, transport, and use IED materials and other weap-ons and equipment has been disrupted.o Local populations have stepped forward to fight the Taliban with ISAFsupport for the first time in some important areas.o The momentum of the insurgency in the south has unquestionably beenarrested and probably reversed.• The insurgents do not have momentum anywhere in RC(East). Coalitionoperations continue to disrupt them in Greater Paktia and are increasinglypushing into their safe havens and support zones in Ghazni, Logar, andWardak. Insurgents have not been able to conduct a coordinated campaignin Nangarhar or Konar or to make much use of isolated safe havens theyretain in Nuristan.• Despite alarmist reports from the Intelligence Community and elsewhere, theinsurgency is not gaining strength in northern Afghanistan and is extremelyunlikely to do so.• Direct action operations against terrorists, insurgent leaders and facilitators,narcotics labs, and other key nodes of the various networks that support un-rest in Afghanistan have increased both in pace and in effectiveness.executive summary
  • • From a military standpoint, the counterinsurgency is going reasonably well,insofar as it is possible to judge over the winter. Challenges remain in theareas that have been or are being cleared, and the requirements for the nextseries of operations are becoming apparent.• The theater remains inadequately resourced. The shortfalls, however, areconsiderably more likely to protract an otherwise successful campaign thanthey are to make it fail.• Political progress has been much more limited, but that is to be expected thisearly into the implementation of the new strategy. It is too soon to judge theeffectiveness of the current approach in this area.• The real test of the security gains in southern Afghanistan will come in latesummer 2011, when the insurgent fighting effort can be expected to reachits peak. The seasonal nature of enemy activity makes judging the depth ofprogress before then extremely difficult.ChallengesThe progress made over the last 18 months is real, but so are the challenges ahead.The corruption and illegitimacy of the Afghan government and the persistenceof sanctuaries for insurgent groups in Pakistan are the two main concernsgenerally raised about the feasibility of success. Governance problems are atthe center of any counterinsurgency effort and success in this area is ultimatelya sine qua non for overall success. Cross-border sanctuaries are also a commonfeature among long-lasting insurgencies. We assess that significant progress is
  • possible in Afghanistan without any fundamental change in the nature of thePakistani sanctuaries, and that such progress will likely lead to a reduction in theeffectiveness of those sanctuaries that success requires.GovernanceImprovements to Afghan governance will come through greater local participationin representative institutions in the Pashtun areas. This is not a foreign,ideological drive to “democratize” Afghanistan, but rather a recognition that localrepresentative institutions are the foundation of Pashtun tribal culture.Pashtun cultural traditions, which have eroded over time and can fairly be saidto be norms only in some areas, have been produced by skeptics of success inAfghanistan as evidence that the Pashtuns are fundamentally unconquerableand also ungovernable. The fact that the U.S. and its allies are trying neither toconquer nor to govern Afghanistan is often lost in this discussion. The issueexecutive summaryat hand is not whether Westerners can govern Afghanistan, but whether or notAfghans can and, if so, what such an Afghan government would look like. Thehistory of Afghanistan before 1978 (and even, to some extent, since then) stronglysuggests not only that Afghanistan is governable, but that there is considerableconsensus among Afghans about the general shape the government should take.The current government structure runs counter to traditional Pashtun expecta-tions about the relationship between local communities and the central govern-ment because it excludes the communities from having a meaningful voice inalmost any decision. It hyper-empowers the executive vis-à-vis representative
  • bodies at every level. This imbalance of powers generates a feeling of alienationand resentment among many Afghans, particularly Pashtuns. It has also facilitateddiscriminatory and predatory government behavior that fuels a sense of injusticeand, therefore, passive and active support for the insurgency. Corruption andabuse-of-power must be addressed by the United States because they fuel the in-surgency. Our challenge is not eliminate corruption in Afghanistan but to help theAfghan political leadership behave sufficiently in accord with Pashtun norms thatgroups that now feel marginalized and preyed-upon see an advantage in at leasttolerating the new order.The emergence of a functional and credible local security program in 2010 isperhaps the most striking and unexpected development—and potentially oneof the most important. The Afghan Local Police (ALP) program is designedto extend the reach of Afghan and Coalition forces to rural areas rather than toreplace them. Perhaps more importantly, ALP empowers villages and clusters ofvillages—not tribes—to resist the Taliban by supporting the consensus decisionsof local elders arrived at in traditional Pashtun ways. It brings these traditionallocal structures into coherence with the central government at the level of thedistrict—ALP sites are subordinated to district chiefs of police. This programoffers a promising view of what at least part of the ultimate political solution tothis conflict might look like.PakistanThe persistence of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan is a major challenge for
  • the success of our mission in Afghanistan. It is not, however, insuperable.Insurgencies with cross-border sanctuaries have two vulnerabilities—the loss ofthe sanctuary itself and the loss of the local networks required to make use ofit. Afghanistan is not beset by hordes of insurgents flooding across the border,but rather by the movement of leaders, small numbers of highly-trained fighters,munitions, weapons, and other supplies. These assets require numerous andeffective networks within Afghanistan to move, to sleep, to hide, and to operate.executive summaryThe current strategy focuses on those local networks both by attacking them withdirect action and by conducting clearing operations, governance efforts, and otherelements of traditional counterinsurgency operations. The U.S. has also beenconducting limited operations against the sanctuaries themselves. The durablesolution to the challenges we face in Afghanistan requires appropriately balancedaction and success on both sides of the Durand Line with the recognition that ourefforts should be concentrated on the areas we can directly affect—i.e., the placeswhere we have soldiers on the ground, rather than in areas where we do not.AlternativesSuccess in Afghanistan is hard enough that one might prefer to find another waythan counterinsurgency to attain our goals. The search for such different pathsis natural and understandable. It will not, however, yield meaningful alternativescapable of ensuring America’s core national security interest, namely, preventing aresurgent transnational terrorist safe haven.It is not possible to deny safe haven to terrorists in Afghanistan without also
  • pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy. The neutralization and ultimate defeat ofthe insurgency is a necessary prerequisite for preventing the return of al Qaedaand other transnational terrorist groups that thrive in the political vacuum thatthe insurgency creates. As long as local networks willing to support extremistsexist and can operate freely in Afghanistan, terrorists will be able to use thosenetworks however intense our direct-action operations might be. The currentcounterinsurgency strategy is the only approach that can disrupt and ultimatelyeliminate those local networks, thereby preventing the terrorists from returningto Afghanistan and ensuring that America achieves its vital national securityobjectives.table of contentsIntroduction ................................................................................... 1State of Play ................................................................................... 6The Relationship between the Insurgency and Transnational Terrorism .....................6The Shape of Afghanistan and the Insurgency...............................................92009-2010: Charting a New Course in Afghanistan ................................... 13Current Situation............................................................................. 19The Way of the Pashtuns....................................................................24MapsMap 1: Afghanistan ........................................................................... 2Map 2: Ethno-Linguistic Divisions in Afghanistan.......................................5Map 3: Eastern Afghanistan ................................................................ 8
  • Map 4: Southern Afghanistan ..............................................................18Map 5: Kandahar City .......................................................................21IntroductionSuccess in Afghanistan is the establishment of a political order, security situation,and indigenous security force that is stable, viable, enduring, and able—with greatlyreduced international support—to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe-haven forinternational terrorists. This objective is the most narrowly-constrained goal theUnited States and its allies could achieve in Afghanistan that would support their vitalnational security interests.One year after President Barack Obama’sdecision to adopt the current strategy andsend additional resources to support it, thereis reason to have confidence in that strategyeven as there are continuing causes forconcern.The troops of the International SecurityAssistance Force (ISAF) have doneunprecedented damage to the insurgencywithin Afghanistan in 2010. They havecleared districts in southern Afghanistan thathad been Taliban-held command, control,logistics, and facilitation hubs. A local
  • defense program—called the Afghan LocalPolice (ALP)— appears to be taking rootin the localities where it has been formedbut also to be spreading organically to otherareas. Direct action operations againstterrorists, insurgent leaders and facilitators,narcotics labs, and other key nodes of thevarious networks that support unrest inAfghanistan have increased both in paceand in effectiveness. ISAF and Afghanforces have seized unprecedented amountsof explosive material, narcotics, and otherinsurgent paraphernalia. The combinationof these activities, the clearing of insurgentsafe-havens within Afghanistan, increasedefforts to secure and patrol key lines ofcommunication, and local security initiativeshave had effects on the insurgency.Some security progress has been made,but Afghanistan almost always looks betterin December and January than it does inJune because of the seasonal nature of the
  • enemies’ activity. The true test of this year’sprogress will come in the summer of 2011when we can judge the extent to which theenemy has been able to rally and re-attackareas that we believe we have secured.Progress on the political front has beenmuch more halting, but that is not verysurprising. As we saw in Iraq in 2007,political progress often lags behind securityprogress. Iraq’s political challenges thenresulted much more directly from insurgentviolence, however, than do Afghanistan’s.Corruption of all varieties permeates thegovernment and severely undermines itslegitimacy. The alliances that PresidentKarzai has made with other powerfulindividuals in Afghanistan are fragile.Parts of the Pashtun population reject thegovernment’s legitimacy for reasons otherthan poor security. Ongoing insurgentactivity nevertheless exacerbates Afghangovernance failures. The threat of insurgentattacks conceals governance problems in
  • some areas and gives malign officials coverand excuses to avoid confronting their ownmisdeeds. The quasi-tribal and ethnic natureof the violence also hinders political progressand exacerbates bad governance practices.It would nevertheless be naïve to imaginethat simply reducing the level of violence inAfghanistan will naturally drive the country’sleaders to govern better.Success therefore requires direct efforts toimprove Afghan governance. This is notmission-creep. The objective of improving1Defining Success in AfghanistanAfghan governance is strictly required toobtain a stable political order that can survivethe withdrawal of international forces.That objective is a core part of PresidentObama’s oft-repeated goal of preventingAfghanistan from once again degeneratinginto a safe-haven for al Qaeda and affiliatedtransnational terrorist and insurgent groups.
  • Improvements to Afghan governance willcome through greater local participation inrepresentative institutions in the Pashtunareas. This is not a foreign, ideologicaldrive to “democratize” Afghanistan, butMap 1: Afghanistan2rather a recognition that local representativeinstitutions are the foundation of Pashtuntribal culture. America and its allies shouldnot aim—and are not aiming—to remakeAfghanistan in their image or accordingto their ideals. Afghanistan must be builtto suit Afghans, and that is the course onwhich American and international efforts areembarked today.Political progress will take even longer toachieve and to gauge than security progress.The government will have to demonstrateincreased willingness to stop and punishDefining Success in Afghanistanegregious corruption and abuse of powerthat increase passive support for the
  • insurgency, to curtail practices that favorsome groups at the expense of others, andto establish working relationships withlocal representative bodies in insurgent-prone areas. The gradual extension of thegovernment’s legitimacy will stem from therebalancing of the central government withlocal interests, community by community,as local representative bodies obtaincompromises from the central governmentand reach accords with their executiveofficials from Kabul.No discussion of defining success inAfghanistan would be complete without aconsideration of its neighbors, particularlyPakistan, for two reasons: First, because ofthe serious nefarious role Pakistani securityservices play by providing sanctuary to ourprincipal adversaries, and, second, becausegovernment collapse in Afghanistan posesa serious threat to the stability of Pakistanitself as well as to our ability to work with
  • Islamabad to attack al Qaeda and relatedmovements.The Afghan insurgent groups that posethe greatest danger to the success of ourmission in Afghanistan are the QuettaShura Taliban (QST) and the HaqqaniNetwork (HQN), with the Hezb-e IslamiGulbuddin (HiG) a distant third.1 TheQST has sanctuaries in Baluchistan, directlyacross the Durand Line, in Quetta, and evendeeper into Pakistan. QST leaders havesought refuge as far afield as Karachi. TheHaqqani Network maintains sanctuariesin North Waziristan, with its headquartersin Miramshah less than 30 miles from theAfghan border. These Pakistani sanctuariesprovide space for insurgent leaders tohide out, plan, recruit, raise funds, allocateresources, train fighters, rest, and refit. Someleaders continually move from Pakistanisanctuaries into Afghanistan, althougheffective ISAF direct-action operations overthe last eighteen months have reduced the
  • number of enemy commanders willing totake such risks. Some fighters move regularlyfrom sanctuaries in Pakistan to attack ISAFand Afghan forces across the Durand Line,but they form a small (if highly trained andmotivated) minority of insurgent fightersoverall, the overwhelming majority of whomare Afghans fighting within walking distanceof their homes. The Pakistani sanctuaries,thus, are not bases from which the insurgentscontinually invade Afghanistan but rathersafe areas in which high-value individuals andmaterials can be protected and allocated.The persistence of insurgent sanctuaries inPakistan is nevertheless a major challenge forthe success of our mission in Afghanistan. Itis not, however, insuperable. All insurgenciesthat benefit from external sanctuaries sufferfrom two vulnerabilities. They can lose theirsanctuaries, thus placing their leadership andessential materiel and training facilities at risk,or they can lose the local networks within
  • the country they are actually attacking, thuslosing their ability to make use of the theirleaders’ expertise and advanced materiel. Inthe latter case, leaders in sanctuary becomegenerals without armies living in increasinglyirrelevant exile. The best counter-insurgencystrategies naturally attack both vulnerabilities,attempting to reduce the effectiveness of thesanctuaries while simultaneously reducingor eliminating the local networks that enableinsurgents to operate away from theirsanctuaries.This balanced approach is necessary andunderway. Drone strikes against terroristleaders are underway in Pakistan. On itsown, this campaign of targeted strikes wouldprobably do nothing more than temporarily3Defining Success in Afghanistandisrupt insurgent leadership, since there isno historical case of targeted strikes alonepermanently disabling an insurgent orterrorist network. These operations must
  • necessarily be complemented by effectivecounter-insurgency within Afghanistanitself—including the elimination of localinsurgent networks, the development ofeffective Afghan security forces, and theestablishment of a stable and minimallyeffective Afghan government. The durablesolution to the challenges we face inAfghanistan requires appropriately balancedaction and success on both sides of theDurand Line with the recognition that ourefforts should be concentrated on the areaswe can directly affect—i.e., the places wherewe have soldiers on the ground, rather thanin areas where we do not.The consideration of Afghanistan’sneighbors leads, finally, to a consideration ofthe potential costs of failure. The Pakistanigovernment can, to a considerable extent,choose to provide or withhold sanctuaryfor Afghan insurgents. A collapsed Afghanstate, an ethnic civil war, or an Afghan state
  • governed by Taliban leaders will not havethat choice to provide or deny sanctuary.Terrorist groups flourish in conditionsof anarchy or ideological and operationalcamaraderie. Nothing in the Taliban’s historysuggests that any Taliban leadership wouldhave the ability to prevent them from findingsanctuaries in Afghanistan, even a relativelypeaceful Afghanistan.But Afghanistan will almost certainly notbe peaceful in the wake of a prematureU.S. and international withdrawal. Strongindications suggest that Afghanistan’snorthern minorities—the Tajiks, Uzbeks,and Hazaras—are already considering theiroptions in such a contingency and possiblybeginning to re-arm in preparation for4renewed inter-ethnic conflict. India, China,Iran, and Russia all have historical links tothese groups and powerful incentives tosupport them against a reviving Talibanregime. Ironically, premature or foolish
  • attempts to “reconcile” with senior Talibanleaders could trigger this conflict bypersuading the former Northern Allianceand its international partners that the Talibanis, indeed, on its way back to power.Should inter-ethnic conflict of the varietyseen in the 1990s resume, some results arepredictable. Afghans will once again fleethe conflict in the hundreds of thousandsor millions (some 5 million fled in the1980s and 1990s). Afghan migrants willdestabilize neighboring states once more,badly undermining Pakistani efforts to gettheir own tribal regions under control andgenerating a renewed source of tension andconflict with Iran. It is not clear that theincreasingly fragile Central Asian states toAfghanistan’s north could survive an influxof refugees. It is certain that a war-tornAfghanistan will once again offer promise tointernational terrorist groups to regain theirfooting there either by moving into lawless
  • areas or by promising threatened Afghansprotection.Success in Afghanistan is hard enough thatone might prefer to find another way thancounterinsurgency to attain our goals there.The search for such different paths is naturaland understandable. It will not, however,yield meaningful alternatives capable ofensuring America’s core national securityinterest, namely, preventing a resurgenttransnational terrorist safe haven. PresidentObama has defined the minimum Americanobjectives in Afghanistan consistent withour interests and security. He has authorizedthe continued pursuit of a strategy narrowlyfocused on those objectives. He hasDefining Success in Afghanistanprovided his commanders and civilianleaders with the minimum level of resourcesthat could reasonably be expected to supportthat strategy. The alternatives to the presentcourse are not scaled-back commitment,reduced exposure, or accepting greater
  • risk—they are abject and dangerous failure.We must succeed in Afghanistan.Success in Afghanistan is achievable withinthe current regional context and with thecurrent strategy and resources. Thereare no guarantees in war, however. Thepossibility of success is not equivalent tothe certainty of success. The core elementsof a successful strategy are in place inAfghanistan today to meet the currentthreat in the current conditions, and leadAfghanistan on a trajectory to a stable andenduring political order.Map 2: Ethno-linguistic Divisions in Afghanistan5Defining Success in AfghanistanState of PlayThe Relationship between the Insurgency andTransnational Terrorism 2Al Qaeda does not exist in a vacuum like theSPECTRE of James Bond movies. It hasalways operated in close coordination with
  • allies. The anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s wasthe crucible in which al Qaeda leaders firstbonded with the partners who would shelterthem in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden metJalaluddin Haqqani, whose network is nowfighting U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, asboth were raising support in Saudi Arabia forthe mujahideen in the 1980s. They then foughtthe Soviets together. When the Soviet Armywithdrew in 1989 (for which bin Ladensubsequently took unearned credit), Haqqaniseized the Afghan city of Khost andestablished his control of the surroundingprovinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika.Haqqani also retained the base in Pakistan—near Miramshah in North Waziristan—fromwhich he had fought the Soviets. Heestablished a madrassa there that has becomeinfamous for its indoctrination of youngmen in the tenets of militant Islamism.Haqqani held onto Greater Paktia, as thethree provinces are often called, and invitedbin Laden to establish bases there in the
  • 1990s in which to train his own cadres.When the Taliban took shape under MullahMohammad Omar in the mid-1990s (witha large amount of Pakistani assistance),Haqqani made common cause with thatgroup, which shared his ideological andreligious outlook and seemed likely totake control of Afghanistan. He became aminister in the Taliban government, whichwelcomed and facilitated the continuedpresence of bin Laden and his trainingcamps.6Bin Laden and al Qaeda could not havefunctioned as they did in the 1990s withoutthe active support of Mullah Omar andHaqqani. The Taliban and Haqqani fightersprotected bin Laden, fed him and his troops,facilitated the movement of al Qaeda leadersand fighters, and generated recruits. Theyalso provided a socio-religious humannetwork that strengthened the personal
  • resilience and organizational reach of binLaden and his team. Islamist revolution hasalways been an activity of groups nestedwithin communities, not an undertakingof isolated individuals. As Americaninterrogators in Iraq discovered quickly,the fastest way to get a captured al Qaedafighter talking was to isolate him from hispeers. Bin Laden’s Taliban allies providedthe intellectual and social support network alQaeda needed to keep fighting. In return, binLaden shared his wealth with the Taliban andlater sent his fighters into battle to defendthe Taliban regime against the U.S.-aidedNorthern Alliance attack after 9/11.The relationship that developed betweenbin Laden and Mullah Omar was deep andstrong. It helps explain why Mullah Omarrefused categorically to expel bin Ladenafter 9/11 even though he knew that failingto do so could lead to the destruction ofthe Taliban state—as it did. In return, binLaden recognizes Mullah Omar as amir
  • al-momineen—the “Commander of theFaithful”—a religious title the Taliban usesto legitimize its activities and shadow state.The alliance between al Qaeda and theHaqqanis (now led by Sirajuddin, successorto his aging and ailing father, Jalaluddin)also remains strong. The Haqqani networkstill claims the terrain of Greater Paktia,can project attacks into Kabul, and seemsto facilitate the kinds of spectacular attacksin Afghanistan that are the hallmark of alQaeda training and technical expertise. ThereDefining Success in Afghanistanis no reason whatever to believe that MullahOmar or the Haqqanis—whose religiousand political views remain closely alignedwith al Qaeda’s—would fail to offer renewedhospitality to their friend and ally of 20years, bin Laden.Mullah Omar and the Haqqanis are not theones hosting al Qaeda today, however, sincethe presence of U.S. and NATO forces
  • in Afghanistan has made that country toodangerous for bin Laden and his lieutenants.They now reside for the most part on theother side of the Durand Line, among themélange of anti-government insurgent andterrorist groups that live in the FederallyAdministered Tribal Areas and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. Thesegroups—they include the Tehrik-e-TalibanPakistan, led by Baitullah Mehsud until hisrecent death-by-Predator; the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi; and theLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), responsible for theMumbai attack—now provide some of thesame services to al Qaeda that the Talibanprovided when they ruled Afghanistan.3Mullah Omar continues to help, moreover,by intervening in disputes among the morefractious Pakistani groups to try to maintaincohesion within the movement. All of thesegroups coordinate their activities, moreover,and all have voices within the PeshawarShura (council). They are not isolated groups,
  • but rather a network-of-networks, both asocial and a political grouping run, in themanner of Pashtuns, by a number of shuras,of which that in Peshawar is theoreticallypreeminent.All of which is to say that the commonimage of al Qaeda leaders flitting likebats from cave to cave in the badlands ofPakistan is inaccurate. Al Qaeda leadersdo flit (and no doubt sometimes sleep incaves)—but they flit like guests from friendto friend in areas controlled by their allies.Their allies provide them with shelter andfood, with warning of impending attacks,and with the means to move rapidly. Theirallies provide communications services—runners and the use of their own moremodern systems—to help al Qaeda’s seniorleaders avoid creating electronic footprintsthat our forces could use to track and targetthem. Their allies provide means of movingmoney and other strategic resources around,
  • as well as the means of imparting criticalknowledge (like expertise in explosives) tocadres. Their allies provide media support,helping to get the al Qaeda message out andthen serving as an echo chamber to magnifyit via their own media resources.Could al Qaeda perform all of thesefunctions itself, without the help of localallies? It probably could. In Iraq, certainly,the al Qaeda organization established its ownadministrative, logistical, training, recruiting,and support structures under the rubric ofits own state—the Islamic State of Iraq.For a while, this system worked well for theterrorists; it supported a concerted terrorcampaign in and around Baghdad virtuallyunprecedented in its scale and viciousness.It also created serious vulnerabilities for alQaeda in Iraq, however. The establishmentof this autonomous, foreign-run structureleft a seam between al Qaeda in Iraq andthe local population and their leaders. Aslong as the population continued to be in
  • open revolt against the United States and theIraqi government, this seam was not terriblydamaging to al Qaeda. But as local leadersbegan to abandon their insurgent operations,al Qaeda in Iraq became dangerouslyexposed and, ultimately, came to be seen asan enemy by the very populations that hadpreviously supported it.There was no such seam in Afghanistan7Defining Success in Afghanistanbefore 9/11. Al Qaeda did not attempt tocontrol territory or administer populationsthere. It left all such activities in the handsof Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani. Itstill does--relying on those groups as well asMap 3: Eastern Afghanistan8on the Islamist groups in Waziristan and theKhyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province to do thegoverning and administering while it focuseson the global war. Afghans had very little
  • interaction with al Qaeda, and so had noDefining Success in Afghanistanreason to turn against the group. The sameis true in Pakistan today. The persistenceof allies who aim at governing andadministering, as well as simply controlling,territory frees al Qaeda from those onerousday-to-day responsibilities and helps shieldthe organization from the blowback itsuffered in Iraq. It reduces the vulnerabilityof the organization and enormouslycomplicates efforts to defeat or destroy it.4Consequently, it is not possible to deny safe-haven to terrorists in Afghanistan withoutalso pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy.The neutralization and ultimate defeat ofthe insurgency is a necessary prerequisitefor preventing the return of al Qaeda, LeT,and other transnational terrorist groupsthat thrive in the political vacuum that theinsurgency creates, and that rely on AfghanPashtuns to provide the social substructurethat makes them safe, secure, and viable.
  • The Shape of Afghanistan and the InsurgencyAfghanistan’s remoteness and rural charactermake it difficult for Americans to understandthe shape and limits of the challengeswe face. Whereas violence in Iraq wasconcentrated along three river valleys thatnearly converge in the vicinity of one cityof overwhelming importance (Baghdad),the insurgency in Afghanistan can seemalmost amorphous and the space withinwhich it could operate almost boundless.Our unfamiliarity with the way Afghanistanworks exaggerates the scale of the problemswe must solve and makes it hard even todescribe a clear series of actions we cantake that can lead to the achievement of ourgoals in the end. Afghanistan is not simplyan amorphous collection of independence-seeking tribes and ethnic groups, andthe enemy cannot simply retreat into themountains, deserts, or more distant valleysand continue to pose a meaningful threat to
  • our security or our success.The insurgency in Afghanistan persistsalmost exclusively among the Pashtunethnic group, which forms a plurality butnot a majority of the Afghan population.The Durand Line, which forms the borderbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan, separatesthe Pashtuns into two groups, with themajority in Pakistan. Many Pashtun tribescross the border, which Afghanistan hasnever formally recognized. Afghan Pashtunsthemselves are further subdivided into twomajor tribal confederations, the Durraniand the Ghilzai. The Durrani homelandsare primarily in southern Afghanistan in theprovinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan,and Zabul—an area traditionally knownas Zabulistan. For much of Afghanistan’shistory as a state it has been ruled by DurraniPashtuns. The Ghilzai homelands areconcentrated further to the east, particularlyin the provinces of Paktia, Paktika, andKhost—an area often referred to as Loya
  • (or Greater) Paktia. These two largeconfederations have no formal leadershipand do not act cohesively. Each is furthersubdivided into groups of tribes, then intotribes themselves, and the tribes are furtherdivided into clans and other subgroupings.The complexity of Pashtun tribes isoverwhelming, but its importance canbe overdrawn. Tribal, sub-tribal, andoccasionally super-tribal conflict is a driverof instability in Afghanistan and tribes areunquestionably important. But they are notdecisive. Few tribes act cohesively acrosslarge areas. Most Afghans live in areas wheretribes are intermingled. Tribal boundariesgenerally do not persist in urban areas. Feudswithin tribes can be more important thanconflicts between tribes. There is no solutionto be found in Afghanistan by “mobilizing,”9Defining Success in Afghanistan“arming,” or “empowering” the tribes—but
  • no solution will work that does not taketribes into account.Very few non-Pashtuns participate activelyin the Taliban insurgency, although there aresome, particularly in mixed areas along thenorthern edge of the Pashtun areas. Tajiks,Uzbeks, and Hazaras do occasionally join theTaliban formally (and Uzbek Islamist splintergroups known as the Islamic Movementof Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Unionare based in Waziristan and allied with theTaliban and al Qaeda). More often, criminalsand arms dealers within those ethnic groupssupply Taliban fighters with weapons as amatter of business rather than ideology.Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras in theirethnic homelands in northern and centralAfghanistan generally regard the Taliban as aserious threat, recalling the vicious civil warsof the 1990s when Taliban fighters sweptinto their lands (and both sides committedatrocities and war crimes).Durrani kings in the 19th century muddled
  • Afghanistan’s ethnic geography intentionallyby settling Pashtuns in pockets in the north.Such pockets remain, especially in Kunduz,Baghlan, Faryab, and Balkh Provinces. ThePashtun belt itself also extends into southernHerat Province, Badghis, and Ghor. Tothe extent that the Taliban insurgencyhas managed to spread into the north ithas remained almost entirely confined tothese Pashtun pockets. There has beenno significant “Talibanization” of Tajik,Uzbek, or Hazara groups in the northernprovinces, and there is very little prospectof any such development. On the contrary,the appearance of Taliban strength near theTajik and Uzbek heartlands has generatedfear among Tajik and Uzbek leaders and atendency to seek to re-arm militias whiledemanding protection from Kabul and ISAF.10But the northern warlords have generallymaintained their control over security in the
  • key cities of Mazar-e Sharif and Herat, andPashtun insurgents in the north have littleability to challenge them other than locally.Kandahar is by far the most important cityin Pashtun Afghanistan. It is the largest city(one of the few population centers that couldreasonably be called a city) in the AfghanPashtun areas. In contrast with Kabul,which has a mixed population, Kandahar isalmost entirely Pashtun. Throughout Kabul,its environs, and the north, east, and westof Afghanistan, Dari (a variant of Farsior Persian) is the dominant language andPersian tradition the court culture (mostAfghan city and place names are actuallyDari forms). These factors make Kandaharessential homeland for any Pashtun-nationalist ideology. The Taliban itself,unsurprisingly, was established in KandaharProvince in 1995; Mullah Mohammad Omar,its founder and leader, is from Kandahar.President Hamid Karzai, on the other hand,is from the village of Karz just south of
  • Kandahar City; his principal Pashtun politicalrival, Gul Agha Sherzai, is also a Kandahari.Kandahar is also a vital economic hub. Itsits at the southern tip of the Hindu Kushmountains and astride the roads that linkPakistan, Kabul, and Herat. It is traditionallypart of a larger market area that includesthe extremely fertile Helmand River Valleyto the west, although instability has severelydamaged that trade corridor. The routefrom the border crossing at Wesh/Chamanthrough Kandahar into Helmand, Farah, andthen Herat is also traditionally part of thelarger transit system that links Central Asia toKarachi.Kandahar is thus in a sense the capital of ahuman and economic system that includesDefining Success in Afghanistanparts of Zabul, Oruzgan, Kandahar,and Helmand Provinces. That system issurrounded by sparsely populated marginallands in Nimruz, Farah, northern Oruzgan,
  • Zabul, and western Ghazni Provinces. Thesouthern portions of Helmand, Kandahar,and Nimruz Provinces are dominated by avast, largely uninhabited, plateau of rockand hard-packed sand known as the RegDesert, which continues south across theDurand Line into the Pakistani Province ofBaluchistan. To the north, the westwardextension of the Hindu Kush mountainsraise desert peaks. There is, therefore,a definable and limited area in southernAfghanistan for which the Quetta ShuraTaliban and the Afghan Government,supported by ISAF, are struggling. TheTaliban insurgency cannot persist in ameaningful form if it is expelled from thedensely-populated parts of this area. Thegovernment, conversely, cannot be saidto control its territory if the Taliban has astrong presence here. These considerationsare among the reasons for ISAF CommanderGeneral Stanley McChrystal’s decision tomake clearing the Central Helmand River
  • Valley and Kandahar the main effort forISAF in 2009 and 2010.Success in southern Afghanistan is anecessary, but not sufficient, conditionfor successful counter-insurgency inAfghanistan as a whole. Afghanistan’s rulershave traditionally come from among theDurrani Pashtun elite based in Kandahar.Their Pashtun oppositionists have thuscome naturally from among the Ghilzaitribal groups in Kandahar and also to theeast. Mullah Omar himself is a memberof the Hotak Tribe, part of the Ghilzaiconfederation. Jalaluddin Haqqani, amember of the Zadran Tribe (also Ghilzai)from Paktia Province, founded a long-livedGhilzai military opposition group, whichhis son, Sirajuddin, now commands. TheHaqqani Network was created to resist theSoviet invasion, with considerable assistancefrom the Pakistani Inter-Services IntelligenceDirectorate (ISI). Jalaluddin was a famous
  • mujahideen commander, and the first to takeand hold a city from the Soviets as theydeparted (Khost).From its inception, the Haqqani Network hasconcentrated on the Greater Paktia area, itstribal heartland. Greater Paktia is comprisedof mountainous and compartmentalizedterrain. The Khost Bowl, a vale formed bya ring of mountains reaching 10,000 feet inheight to its north, east, and west, is relativelywarm and fertile. It is geographicallyconnected much more closely to Pakistanthan to the rest of Afghanistan, as transitfrom Khost to Gardez, the capital ofneighboring Paktia Province, is throughthe forbidding Khost-Gardez Pass, whichmeanders for miles among 8,000-10,000-foot peaks. Southwest of Khost is sparsely-populated Paktika Province, whose northernand western districts are meaningfully partof Greater Paktia, but whose southern andwestern expanses are not. The Waziri tribalareas in Paktika are not fundamentally part
  • of Afghanistan at all—their inhabitantsidentify with their tribal cousins across theDurand Line in Waziristan. Southern Paktikais much more closely tied to Zabul than toKhost; and western Paktika is more part ofGhazni.The Haqqani legend and emphasis onGreater Paktia are, thus, somewhat distorting.Khost is an isolated city largely disconnectedfrom the rest of Afghanistan. Gardez,on the other hand, is tied more closelyto Ghazni and looks more toward Kabulthan toward Pakistan. Another way tolook at this region, therefore, is to considerthe wide floodplain that stretches south11Defining Success in Afghanistanfrom the outskirts of Kabul in Logar andWardak Provinces, through Ghazni, Paktia,and Paktika Provinces toward Zabul. Thisfloodplain, which runs along the northernedge of the Pashtun belt, contains the Ring
  • Road running from Kabul to Kandaharand the most fertile agriculture lands inthis portion of the country, as well as thebulk of the population. That is one ofthe reasons why the Haqqani Network hasworked diligently to expand its reach beyondGreater Paktia into Ghazni, Logar, andWardak Provinces and thereby toward Kabulitself. Here, too, we find a definable humanand economic system with recognizableboundaries. An insurgency that does notcontrol Khost and have reasonable controlover Ghazni, Gardez, and Sharana (thecapital of Paktika Province) rapidly losesits credibility and relevance. If the AfghanGovernment does not control Logar,Wardak, and the Ghazni-Gardez-Sharanatriangle, on the other hand, it cannot claim tohave legitimacy in the Ghilzai heartland.The contested areas east of Kabul are evenmore difficult to describe because they aremore fragmented and isolated by geography.The most populous and important is the
  • Jalalabad Bowl and the Kabul-to-Khyberhighway that runs through NangarharProvince. Northeast of Nangarhar is KonarProvince, which runs along the Konar Riverand the Durand Line opposite the Pakistanidistricts of Bajaur, Mohmand, Dir, andChitral—traditional centers of Islamistterrorism and insurgency in Pakistan.Konar and Nangarhar are largely inhabitedby Pashtuns. To the north lies Nuristan,inhabited by Nuristanis who are ethnicallydistinct from Pashtuns and extremelyxenophobic as a rule. Nuristan and Konarare isolated to the north and west by a rockwall 10,000-feet high crossed by very few,barely trafficable passes. Movement of12significant numbers of people or amountsof cargo is largely confined to the roadthat runs along the Konar River throughAsadabad. Controlling that road and thepass at the base of the Konar River Valley
  • is the key to controlling movement fromthis isolated area to anywhere that matters.Although the Hezb-e Islam Gulbuddininsurgent group is strongest in this area, itis not firmly in control. Numerous Talibangroups and splinter factions operate inthe compartmentalized terrain of easternAfghanistan. They pose a limited threat tothe Afghan government and are primarilyof concern to the U.S. because they canprovide sanctuaries to terrorist groups in theforbidding mountains in which they live.There are, thus, five major areas inAfghanistan that the government must holdand the insurgents must contest: Kabul andits immediate environs; the densely-settledareas of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabol, andUruzgan; Herat; Loya Paktia, along withGhazni and southern Logar and Wardak; andthe inhabited areas east of Kabul aroundthe Jalalabad Bowl and up the Konar RiverValley. ISAF and the ANSF have establishedreasonably solid security in Herat and
  • Kabul. They are maintaining more tenuoussecurity in the Jalalabad Bowl and fightingto push stability up the Konar River Valley.Regaining control of Helmand, Kandahar,southern Uruzgan, and parts of Zabol hasbeen ISAF’s main effort for the past 18months and has seen much progress. Thesituation in Loya Paktia, Ghazni, and partsof Logar and Wardak has not yet receivedadequate attention. The problems arefinite and the requirements for success areclear. Whether or not we and the Afghangovernment can meet those requirements inthe face of a determined enemy, of course,will remain unclear until the war is over.Defining Success in Afghanistan2009-2010: Chartinga New Course inAfghanistanThe last eighteen months have witnesseda transformation in almost every aspectof the American and coalition effort in
  • Afghanistan. As late as April 2008, NATOdocuments on Afghanistan did not recognizethe existence of insurgents, referring insteadto violent extremists who were destabilizingefforts to turn security responsibilities overto the Afghans and conduct economicdevelopment. The NATO declarationon Afghanistan following the StrasbourgSummit in April 2009 formally recognizedthat an insurgency threatened the NATOmission and undertook to combat thatinsurgency. The November 2010 declarationfollowing the Lisbon Summit was evenclearer: “We will continue to assist theAfghan authorities in providing securityand stability. ISAF and Afghan operationsare improving security and freedom ofmovement throughout Afghanistan includingin the south where the insurgency isparticularly active.”5 The Strasbourg summitalso recognized the growing challenge thatcorruption posed to the mission’s success,a theme that was emphasized even more
  • clearly by the McChrystal assessment in thesummer of 2009.The strategy approved by President Obamain December 2009, recently reaffirmedfollowing the December 2010 AnnualReview of Afghanistan and Pakistan(ARAP), was thus the first to committhe United States, NATO, and their non-NATO allies to fighting an insurgencyand addressing corruption and abuse ofpower within the Afghan government. Itsignificantly reduced the emphasis ondevelopment and economic progress andon the protection of physical infrastructurethat had marked previous ISAF approaches.It focused instead on protecting theAfghan population and helping the Afghangovernment begin to address those of itsown failures that were alienating the peopleand creating fertile ground for insurgentrecruitment and activity. The strategicconcept underpinning current U.S. and
  • international efforts in Afghanistan has thusbeen in place for thirteen months.General McChrystal’s review identified fourpillars of the new approach, which remainfocal points of General Petraeus’ strategytoday (as articulated, for instance, in hiscounterinsurgency guidance):• “Develop a significantly more effectiveand larger ANSF with radically expandedcoalition force partnering at everyechelon;• “Prioritize responsive and accountablegovernance—that the Afghan peoplefind acceptable—to be on par with, andintegral to, delivering security;• “Gain the initiative and reverse theinsurgency’s momentum as the firstimperative in a series of temporal stages,and;• “Prioritize available resources to thosecritical areas where the population ismost threatened.”6Every one of these pillars reflected a
  • fundamental change in the previous ISAFapproach. The U.S. and the internationalcommunity had previously consciouslychosen not to pursue a rapid expansion ofthe ANSF. This choice reflected concernsthat increasing quantity would require13Defining Success in Afghanistansacrificing quality and that Afghanistanwould be unable to pay for a larger militaryon its own. Both concerns were valid,but they received more weight than theydeserved. Producing a larger military fasternaturally reduces the overall quality of theforce, but the ANSF only has to be goodenough to fulfill the missions it is given.The last year has shown that it was possibleto increase the Afghan National Armysubstantially and still have its planning andcombat abilities improve significantly.7 Theconcern about the affordability of the ANSFwas premature. It does not matter what
  • army Afghanistan could theoretically affordif the current army cannot safeguard thestate. The recognition, now embodied by theLisbon Declaration and President Obama’sstatements, that the international communitywill be supporting Afghanistan for a longtime has reduced this particular concern tomanageable levels.The prioritization of good governance,acceptable to the Afghan people, wasalso a new departure for a command andinternational effort that had previouslyfocused almost entirely on economicdevelopment and helping the governmentdeliver services to the people. To theWestern eye, this departure might not seemso large—economic development andgovernment services are among the principalelements of good governance in the West.In a desperately poor country such asAfghanistan, however, they are much morelike fringe benefits than core requirementsof the government. The Afghan people seek
  • security first and foremost, followed by basicjustice and the ability to resolve disputes.International efforts that fueled corruptionin the government in the name of economicdevelopment actually set the overall missionback significantly. Corruption accentuatesthe sense of injustice already prevalent in an14impoverished, war-wracked society. Personalinsecurity makes economic developmenta secondary concern. The McChrystalreview marked the start of a process thatis only now reaching fruition whereby theU.S. and its international partners start towork aggressively to address the failures ofgovernance that are fueling the insurgency,rather than those that are most amenableto the tools of traditional Western aidprograms.It seems odd to say that reversing theinsurgency’s momentum was a new departurein ISAF strategy, but it was. Previous
  • approaches had been primarily defensive innature. ISAF forces had focused on securingroads and important physical infrastructure,relying on direct-action operations andperiodic, brief “clearing” operations thatwere more like raids, in an attempt to preventthe insurgents from interfering with thedevelopment efforts that were thought to bethe keys to success. The McChrystal strategyin contrast emphasized taking the fight tothe enemy and matching our efforts againstthe degree of threat to important populationcenters rather than against the value ofeconomic corridors or development projects.As a result, the last pillar—prioritizingresources to critical areas—led to afundamental reorientation of ISAF’s forcesand efforts. The insurgency, as we haveseen, had been steadily gaining ground inand around Kandahar since at least 2007,yet ISAF had an extremely limited presencethere in the summer of 2009. GeneralMcChrystal identified Kandahar as the
  • theater’s main effort, devoting ever-increasingresources to that problem at the expenseof other areas that he considered either lessimportant or less threatened. This approachdiverged from the previous ISAF strategythat had tended to see all areas as more orDefining Success in Afghanistanless equal in importance, and that thereforescattered much more limited resources acrossthe country in a way that made concentratingefforts on a given problem extremelydifficult.None of these changes would have matteredwithout the addition of necessary resources.Although President Obama chose not tosend to Afghanistan the troops that GeneralMcChrystal identified as necessary for a“fully-resourced” counter-insurgency effort,the number of American troops in thattheater has increased from 30,000 to 100,000during his presidency. Allied contributionsraised the total number of ISAF forces
  • (including the American contingent) from55,000 in January 2009 to around 150,000today. The U.S. also significantly increasedthe number of special mission unitsoperating in Afghanistan, as well as theamount of information, surveillance, andreconnaissance (ISR) capabilities necessary todevelop actionable intelligence for them andfor the general purpose forces. Significantadditional intra-theater airlift was added,including helicopters, Marine Ospreys, andAir Force transports.The expansion of forces required asignificant effort to build infrastructurewithin Afghanistan, including bases,outposts, lines of communication (LOCs),logistics hubs, and communicationscapabilities. It also included the additionof new headquarters necessary both tocommand the larger forces and also toimprove cross-theater coordination ofefforts. It took almost exactly one year toget all of these additional resources in place:
  • the president announced his decision onDecember 1, 2009, and the last additionalU.S. formation (the headquarters of the10th Mountain Division) was activated inAfghanistan on November 3, 2010.General McChrystal also fundamentallyrestructured the NATO headquartersin Afghanistan. This topic may notbe exciting to non-specialists, but it isextremely important. At the start of 2009the command-structure was completelydysfunctional. ISAF was a NATOheadquarters subordinate to the NATOJoint Forces Command at Brunnsum,itself subordinated to the SupremeAllied Command, Europe (SACEUR).It was not subordinated to U.S. CentralCommand (CENTCOM), in whose area ofresponsibility Afghanistan falls, althoughAmerican special mission units conductingcounter-terrorism operations in Afghanistanunder the rubric of Operation Enduring
  • Freedom did report to the CENTCOMcommander. The organization training theAfghan National Security Forces (CombinedSecurity Transition Command—Afghanistan,or CSTC-A) also belonged to CENTCOMrather than to NATO.Worse still, CSTC-A retained responsibilityfor Afghan security forces even after theyhad completed training and deployed tocombat—the training command, in otherwords, was also an operational commandand, furthermore, was grading its ownhomework. There was no operational-level command parallel to the MultinationalCorps-Iraq (MNC-I) commanded so ablyby Lieutenant Generals Raymond Odierno,Lloyd Austin, Charles Jacoby, and nowRobert Cone. Afghanistan was dividedinto five regional commands (North, East,Capital, South, and West), each assigned toa NATO country. Only RC(East), wherethe U.S. held command continuously, hada standing division headquarters assigned
  • to it; the others were run by small, ad hocinternational formations that were non-15Defining Success in Afghanistandoctrinal and had not trained or preparedtogether before deployment. Nevertheless,the regional commands carried the burdenfor developing most of such theater strategyas there was at the time—ISAF strategybefore 2009 tended to be the agglomerationof regional command desires and interestsrather than an overall approach driven bycountry-wide concerns and realities.Every aspect of this problem has beentransformed. ISAF is now responsible bothto SACEUR and to CENTCOM. LieutenantGeneral David Rodriguez stood up theISAF Joint Command (IJC), a three-staroperational headquarters similar to MNC-I(although to its detriment, it has neveryet been fielded as an organic, standingcorps headquarters as MNC-I always was).
  • CSTC-A became NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, another three-star headquartersresponsible only for building and trainingthe ANSF. Operational coordination withthe ANSF now lies appropriately withthe IJC, the operational headquarters.RC(South) was divided in two and nowhas two complete and organic divisionheadquarters—the Marine ExpeditionaryForce in RC (Southwest), (Helmand andNimruz), and the 10th Mountain Divisionin RC (South), (Kandahar, Oruzgan,and Zabol). The activities of the specialmission units have been integrated withthe efforts of the general purpose forcesto a greater degree than ever before. Thecommand reorganization has also allowedan unprecedented degree of strategic andoperational planning and resource allocationacross the entire theater.ISAF and its American component,U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A),have also established for the first time
  • a number of organizations designed tocombat the challenges of corruption and16poor governance. Task Force 2010 wasestablished to review U.S. contractingpractices in Afghanistan with an eyetoward reducing and ultimately eliminatingmisguided spending that was fuelingcorruption and the insurgency. Task ForceSpotlight was established to focus specificallyon the complicated matter of the privatesecurity companies used by U.S. Forces andcontracting agencies. This fall, GeneralPetraeus established Task Force Shafafiyat(“transparency”) to coordinate all of ISAF’santi-corruption and good-governance efforts.Shafafiyat, commanded by Brigadier GeneralH.R. McMaster, oversees Task Forces 2010and Spotlight; as well as Combined JointInteragency Task Force (CJIATF) Nexus,which has been focusing on the relationshipbetween narcotics trafficking and the
  • insurgency; the Afghan Threat Finance Cell;and a number of other law enforcementefforts.The U.S. also established Combined JointTask Force 435 to coordinate all of theU.S. military’s efforts on detainee affairsand rule of law. Under the command ofVice Admiral Robert S. Harward, CJTF-435 has overseen the construction of a newdetention facility in Parwan to replace theoutdated and overcrowded facility in Bagram,and has trained and prepared Afghan policeand corrections officers to take responsibilityfor the facility in 2011. CJTF-435 is nowworking on turning the Sarpoza Prisonin Kandahar—site of a major jailbreak in2008—into a modern rule-of-law facilitymanned by Afghan police and correctionsofficials mentored by and partnered withAmericans.The emergence of a functional andcredible local security program in 2010 isperhaps the most striking and unexpected
  • development—and potentially one of theDefining Success in Afghanistanmost important. Coalition forces have beenworking with local security forces since 2001.The U.S. and some of its partners wereworking with such forces (including somethat are now part of the Taliban), in fact,since the 1980s when they were key allies inthe struggle against the Soviets. Americanstrategy toward Afghanistan in the 1990s,such as it was, relied almost entirely onlocal proxies. After the fall of the Taliban,the U.S. and the international communityinsisted on a program to disband the fightingforces of Afghanistan’s warlords that alteredthe characters of those militias but did notentirely eradicate them. Ever since then,various commanders have tried differentapproaches to restarting local defenseinitiatives, but all have failed.The premise of local defense initiatives istwo-fold: counter-insurgency works best
  • when local communities not only reject theinsurgents, but also agree to fight to keepthem away; this principle seems especiallyapplicable in a localized, rural, and tribalsociety like Afghanistan where warrior spirit,independence, and communal self-defenseare prized traditions. Previous attemptshave foundered on a number of problems,however. The notion of arming tribes—thatis, building up local tribal militias known inmany parts of Afghanistan as arbakai—wasclearly problematic. Tribal conflict is oneof the factors fueling the insurgency; tribalstructures have been badly damaged by thirtyyears of war; and it is almost impossibleto support one tribe without creating theperception of favoring it over its traditionalfoes, thereby alienating them from ISAFand the government. A somewhat moresuccessful approach was tried in WardakProvince. Known as the Afghan PublicProtection Program (APPP), this effortempowered local leaders to select young
  • men to join the force, sent them to trainingin coordination with the Interior Ministry,and then returned them to their district toprotect it. The structure of the programwas designed to address another traditionalproblem with local security forces—fear bythe central government that they will allowlocal communities effectively to secede fromits control. But the centralized aspects ofthe APPP, the fact that no Coalition forceswere directly tasked with supporting it, andits structural reliance on a charismatic localleader prevented it from spreading.The current local security effort, the AfghanLocal Police program, is designed to addressall of these previous failings. ALP is anAfghan government program that resultedfrom long and difficult negotiations betweenISAF and President Karzai. The lengthand difficulty of those negotiations wasitself a good start—it meant that bothsides were forced to address the promises
  • and dangers of the program, consider theirinterests and objectives, and find mutually-acceptable compromises. ALP is not a tribalprogram, but rather operates in local areaswith mixed tribes. Local elders lead theeffort by first committing to the program,then identifying young men to serve in it.U.S. Special Forces teams train those youngmen and support them when they fight theenemy. But ALP groups are subordinate todistrict chiefs of police, and their weaponsare issued by the Afghan Interior Ministry.ALP sites are established only where theAfghan government has approved them, andeach site has a dedicated American team tooversee it.The ALP program, finally, is designed toextend the reach of Afghan and Coalitionforces rather than to replace them. ALP sitesare selected in areas that are important to theinsurgency or the population, but not enoughof a priority to warrant the deployment of17
  • Defining Success in AfghanistanAfghan or Coalition general purpose forces.They are often along insurgent supplylines or in less populated but operationallysignificant rural districts. They allow thecounter-insurgent forces to be “bigger thanMap 4: Southern Afghanistan18they are” while also demonstrating thewillingness of Pashtun populations not onlyto reject the Taliban, but to fight againstthem with limited, but dedicated, Americanhelp.Defining Success in AfghanistanCurrent SituationThe additional resources and changes incommand structures have allowed ISAF toconduct coordinated operations against theinsurgents over large areas for the first time.ISAF’s main efforts have been in Helmandand Kandahar Provinces, the most importantareas in Afghanistan for the Quetta-based
  • Taliban leadership. In Helmand, theU.S. deployed Marine forces in 2009 tosupplement the British and Danish troopsalready there and to begin clearing operationsalong the central Helmand River Valley. InFebruary 2010, General McChrystal launchedOperation MOSHTARAK, a major effortto clear enemy safe-havens in the district ofMarjah, which lies to the west of Helmand’scapital, Lashkar Gah. Marjah had beenunder uncontested Taliban control for anumber of years and served as an importantcommand and control center, supply depot,rest-and-refit area, and support base foroperations throughout Helmand Province.The physical challenges of clearing thedistrict were significant—previous U.S.-supported development efforts had createda maze of small canals that made the areaextremely fertile but also compartmentalized.The long-term Taliban presence had allowedthe enemy to prepare defensive positionsand gain or coerce support from the
  • local population. The clearing operation,nevertheless, was successful, and by summerMarjah was no longer under Taliban control.The clearing of Marjah, following operationsin 2009 along the Helmand River Valley,allowed coalition forces to develop anincreasingly secure area in Central Helmand,particularly in the Nawa, Nad Ali, andGarmsir Districts, as well as Lashkar Gah.Fighting continues in and around Marjah andNad Ali as Taliban forces attempt to disruptthe ISAF hold and, if possible, re-establishthemselves in those historic safe-havens.Fighting has intensified in Sangin, along theHelmand River to the north of the clearedareas and south of the Kajaki Dam. Sanginhas become the northern flank of clearingoperations in Helmand, and it is likely toremain violent for some time to come.Taliban efforts to encircle and penetrateKandahar had gone almost uncheckedbefore 2010. As the year began, ISAF forces
  • had virtually no presence in the city itself(fewer than 1,000 U.S. military police weredeployed in the city as mentors partneredwith the Afghan National Police) and littlepresence in the surrounding areas outsideof the districts near Kandahar Airfield(KAF), the headquarters of RC(S). TheTaliban had long-established safe-havensin Maiwand, Zhari, Panjwayi, Ghorak, andKhakrez Districts to the west and north ofthe city and was digging into ArghandabDistrict, traditionally known as the gateof Kandahar. Taliban presence within thecity itself was significant, particularly in theDistrict 9 (Loya Wiala) in the north andDistrict 6 (Malajat) in the southwest. TheTaliban did not have urban sanctuaries inKandahar similar to those al Qaeda in Iraqmaintained in Baghdad, but the insurgentsdid have freedom of movement, safe-houses,some supply staging areas, and the abilityto conduct attacks throughout the city.Taliban courts in Malajat and other suburbs
  • summoned Kandaharis from the city tojudgment, and many felt obliged to comply.The increase in forces ordered by PresidentObama in 2009 allowed ISAF to launchcounter-offensive operations aroundKandahar in 2010. The counter-offensivehas been piecemeal and gradual, but steady.U.S. forces deployed into Arghandab inSeptember 2009 and began efforts to clearthat district, but met with much resistance.19Defining Success in AfghanistanAttempts at forming local defense initiativesbefore the creation of the Afghan LocalPolice program had mixed results. Renewedclearing operations over the last month, ledby an Afghan Border Police unit commandedby Colonel (soi-disant General) Abdul Raziq,appear to have been more effective, but itis difficult to be sure over the winter. Aswith so much in Afghanistan, the real depthof progress will only be apparent when the
  • insurgents attempt to return to cleared areasin the spring.Shortly before relinquishing commandon November 3, RC South’s Britishcommander, Major General Nick Carter,conducted a multi-brigade operation toclear Taliban strongholds in Zhari andPanjwayi Districts. These operations werenotable because Coalition Forces hadfundamentally abandoned those two districtsto the Taliban after Operation MEDUSAin 2006, allowing the insurgents to establisha degree of control that approached realsanctuary not far from Kandahar City. Likethe insurgent stronghold in Marjah, safe-havens in Zhari and Panjwayi supportedTaliban operations throughout the Provinceand into neighboring provinces as well.The operation was also notable because ofthe participation of Afghan Army kandaks(battalions) deployed for the purpose fromother parts of the country. The AfghanArmy has traditionally resisted requests
  • to move forces around, and deploymentto Kandahar is a distressing prospectfor Afghan soldiers in other parts of thecountry. Three kandaks deployed from thenorth and east, nevertheless, and took activepart in the effort to clear Zhari and Panjwayi.Colonel (General) Raziq’s forces hadpreviously cleared the Malajat District ofKandahar City, and an American combatbrigade (with only one infantry battalion,20however) moved into the city itself. ISAFalso deployed a Battlefield SurveillanceBrigade—an unusual formation with a largecapacity to gather and analyze intelligence ofall kinds and a limited ability to maneuver—to oversee the key transit corridor fromKandahar to the Wesh/Chaman bordercrossing.ISAF and ANSF forces continue to hold allof the areas they have cleared in Helmandand Kandahar—marking a sharp contrast
  • with previous ISAF undertakings in that area.The Taliban has made a number of attemptsto contest that hold with spectacular attacks,targeted assassination campaigns, and IEDs,as well as small-arms attacks on ISAF andANSF positions that are generally ineffective.ISAF has responded by dismantling theTaliban assassination cell in Kandahar,repulsing attacks on its own positions,and seizing large amounts of IED-makingmaterials and components. ISAF has alsoaggressively targeted the narcotics facilitatorsand financiers who link the drug marketto the insurgency, seizing unprecedentedamounts of raw and finished opium,precursor chemicals, and equipment.The Afghan Local Police initiative has playedan important but unheralded role in theseoperations. ALP sites in Khakrez District,Kandahar, and in several districts in Oruzganand Day Kundi Provinces to the north,have begun to disrupt insurgent lines ofcommunications that had run from Pakistan
  • through Zabul into Oruzgan and then eithersouth into Kandahar or southwest intoHelmand. These ALP sites have made moreprogress in disrupting these insurgent LOCsin 2010 than the Dutch contingent deployedin Oruzgan had made during its entire stay.Among other things, the effectiveness ofthe ALP program, particularly in Oruzgan,has allowed ISAF to make progress in thatDefining Success in AfghanistanMap 5: Kandahar Cityprovince even without replacing the Dutchcontingent when it departed in August 2010.The New Year thus finds the situationin southern Afghanistan fundamentallydifferent from what it was at the start of2010. The Taliban has lost almost all of itsprincipal safe-havens in this area. Its abilityto acquire, transport, and use IED materialsand other weapons and equipment has beendisrupted. Local populations have steppedforward to fight the Taliban with ISAF
  • support for the first time in some importantareas. The momentum of the insurgency inthe south has unquestionably been arrestedand, it is probably fair to say, actuallyreversed.The war in the south is, however, by nomeans over. Political progress has beenvery uneven. Governor Ghulab Mangal inHelmand is widely seen as successful andreasonably effective. The power-brokerand malign actor whom he supplanted atthe insistence of Great Britain in 2006,Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, neverthelessremains a powerful force in PresidentKarzai’s court and continually seeks toundermine Mangal and regain his positionwithin the province. It is not clear how longMangal would last without continued clearand active Coalition support, or how longthe governmental reforms he has made inHelmand would survive his departure. Onthe other hand, Sher Mohammad has failedin every attempt to persuade President
  • Karzai to replace or undermine GovernorMangal, or even to save or reinstate thecorrupt and divisive police chief of Marjah,Abdul Rahman Jan, who was removed atCoalition insistence a few months intooperations there. Coalition support forMangal, at any event, remains strong, and it isquite possible that President Karzai has cometo see the utility in supporting him despitethe protestations of a family friend and ally.There has been little meaningful politicalprogress in Kandahar Province thus far.21Defining Success in AfghanistanThe provincial government remains firmlyunder the control of President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai and GovernorToryalai Wesa, who is widely seen as AhmadWali’s puppet. Kandahar City MayorHamadi remains in power and is still seen ascomplicit in Ahmad Wali’s power syndicate.Afghan National Police in Kandahar remain
  • heavily influenced by the deputy commanderof the police zone in which they fall, MirwaisNoorzai. They are widely seen as corruptand, often, as agents of Ahmad Wali and hisallies.Little progress is not the same asno progress, however. Three recentappointments offer some hope of changein Kandahar—the selections of ShahMohammad Ahmadi as ArghandabDistrict Governor, Niaz Mohammad asArghandab District Chief of Police, andKhan Mohammad as Kandahar ProvincialChief of Police. All three are membersof the Alokozai Tribe (of the DurraniConfederation), the dominant tribe inArghandab District that has fallen underthe sway of the Taliban following years ofperceived discrimination at the hands ofthe Karzais (members of the Popalzai tribe)and Sherzais (members of the BarakzaiTribe). Khan Mohammad is also an effectiverepresentative of the Kandahari mujahideen
  • who fought against the Soviets and did notthen join the Taliban. These appointmentsappear to signal a new willingness on the partof the Karzais to reach out to their Alokozairivals and the mujahideen network of whichthey are not a part. If nothing else, KhanMohammad, Niaz Mohammad, and ShahMohammad Ahmadi are not generally seenas part of the Karzai network in Kandahar.As long as Ahmad Wali remains the effectivehead of Kandahar Provincial Government,however, it will be difficult if not impossibleto convince Kandaharis that the nature22of that government has changed in anymeaningful way.The war has not stopped in other parts ofthe country despite the recent focus on thesouth and southwest. Security has improvedconsiderably within Kabul and in some of itssuburbs and has stayed relatively good alongthe Kabul-Jalalabad-Torkham Gate road.
  • U.S. forces have made progress in KonarProvince, partly by repositioning away fromisolated and marginally-relevant outposts inNuristan in order to mass more forces onmore populated and operationally significantareas. Insurgents retain the ability to movethrough and attack in Wardak, Logar,Parwan, and Kapisa Provinces, although theirability to stage from those provinces intoKabul itself has been significantly degraded.South of Kabul, direct-action teams havetaken a toll on the Haqqani Network andits affiliates in Greater Paktia, Logar, andsouthern Wardak Provinces. An Americanbattalion pushed into the Andar Districtof Ghazni Province (directly south ofGhazni City and a significant insurgentstronghold) to support the Polish TaskForce that has responsibility for thatprovince. But Ghazni remains heavily underthe insurgency’s influence, as evidencedby the almost total failure to persuade theprovince’s large Pashtun population to vote
  • in the parliamentary elections in September.Coalition Forces have also been unableto eliminate insurgent resistance to theconstruction of the Khost-Gardez Road(which runs through the heart of the ZadranTribal area and, thus, part of the HaqqaniNetwork’s home turf) or to clear and holdthe Khost Bowl itself. There has been nomeaningful political progress in this area.The insurgents, on the other hand, do nothave any momentum to speak of anywherein RC(East). Coalition operations continueDefining Success in Afghanistanto disrupt them in Greater Paktia and areincreasingly pushing into their safe-havensin Ghazni, Logar, and Wardak. Insurgentshave not been able to conduct a coordinatedcampaign in Nangarhar or Konar or to makemuch use of isolated safe-havens they retainin Nuristan.Nor, despite alarmist reports from theIntelligence Community and elsewhere,
  • do the insurgents have the momentum innorthern Afghanistan. The Pashtun pocketin Konduz District remains challenging,but the insurgents have not been able toexpand their operating areas there and U.S.and German forces have been workingto disrupt their safe-havens. AfghanLocal Police programs are emerging inAfghanistan’s northwestern provinces andhave helped Coalition and Afghan forcesreverse the relatively minor gains the Talibanhad made in Badghis and Faryab, as wellas Herat. The major inhabited areas ofnorthern and western Afghanistan—BalkhProvince (where Mazar-e Sharif is located),Herat City and Province, the famed PanjshirValley, Bamian Province, northern Ghazniand northern Day Kundi Provinces (which,together with Bamian, form the Hazarajat,the area inhabited by the Hazaras)—remaingenerally stable and do not face an increasingTaliban threat.Which is not to say that all is perfect in
  • those areas. “Former” warlords like IsmailKhan (Herat), Mohammad Atta (Balkh),Marshal Fahim (Afghanistan’s First VicePresident), and others still dominate theirtraditional areas, ruling corruptly andsometimes erratically. Their vices are notvexing their populations enough to generateviolence or support for insurgency againstthe government, however. They will haveto change their manner of ruling—or bereplaced by people who govern differently—if Afghanistan is to become a well-governedstate, but they pose no immediate threat tocurrent counter-insurgency operations or thestability of Afghanistan and so are properlynot the focus of efforts.From a military standpoint, then, thecounter-insurgency is going reasonablywell, insofar as it is possible to judge overthe winter. Challenges remain in the areasthat have been or are being cleared, andthe requirements for the next series of
  • operations are becoming apparent. Thetheater remains, in our view, inadequatelyresourced. The shortfalls, however, areconsiderably more likely to protract anotherwise successful campaign than they areto make it fail. Some political progress at thelocal level suggests that more is possible, butalso demonstrates the difficulty of makingany progress in the realm of governance.It is easy to enumerate additional evidence ofprogress and challenges in the developmentof the ANSF, the government’s ability tospend money (legally) and provide (licit)services, economic development, and so on,but other reports present much of this dataand it is, to many, somewhat beside the point.Even the military progress and prospectsidentified above will be (mistakenly in ourview) dismissed as irrelevant by some. Formany skeptics, the real question about theprospects of our success is: Is it possibleto help the Afghans develop any kind ofgovernment that will be stable, legitimate,
  • and able to prevent the country frombecoming again a sanctuary for terrorists?23Defining Success in AfghanistanThe Way of thePashtunsMuch has been made in some circles ofPashtunwali, the traditional code to whichPashtuns are supposed to adhere. Pashtunwaliincludes rigid traditions of hospitality, whichhave been interpreted by some Afghans torequire defending terrorists who are “guests”from outside attack; honor, which, wheninjured, demands vengeance; independence,which can be used to justify resistance toanyone who can be labeled an “outsider”whether from the next continent or thenext village; and justice (understood sincethe Pashtuns’ conversion to Islam as theenforcement of shari’a with an admixtureof pre-Islamic Afghan judicial traditions).These cultural traditions, which have eroded
  • over time and can fairly be said to be normsonly in some areas, have been producedby skeptics of success in Afghanistan asevidence that the Pashtuns are fundamentallyunconquerable and also ungovernable.The fact that the U.S. and its allies aretrying neither to conquer nor to governAfghanistan is often lost in this discussion.The issue at hand is not whether Westernerscan govern Afghanistan, but whether or notAfghans can and, if so, what such an Afghangovernment would look like.As with many shibboleths, the“ungovernability” of Afghanistan is beliedby its history. Founded as an independentDurrani kingdom in 1747, Afghanistan hasgoverned itself in various configurationsever since. Even at the height of Britishinfluence, London never tried to governAfghans—it only sought to controltheir foreign policy. Durrani kings ruledAfghanistan almost continuously (therewas one short-lived Ghilzai break in the
  • 24Durrani line) from 1747 until the CommunistRevolution in April 1978. Periods ofinternal conflict and civil strife were nomore prevalent or destructive in Afghanistanduring that period than they were in anyof the states of South Asia or the MiddleEast—the governability of which is notgenerally questioned.The nature of Afghan governance under theDurrani monarchy is instructive (and oftenreferred to by Afghans as a paradigm forthinking about the present and future). Itrelied heavily on an aspect of Pashtunwali thatis too often overlooked—the centrality ofconsensus decision-making by elders whoare seen to represent their communities.Pashtun governance has historicallyworked when the process of representativeconsensus decision-making has beenrespected. In general terms, each village hasits own group of elders (who may or may
  • not be old, but generally are). Even today,almost any Pashtun villager knows who theelders are, whether or not they direct villagelife. When groups of villages must decidecommon matters, elders in each village selectrepresentatives from among their numberto attend a Jirga or council that meets todiscuss issues that must be resolved. Asuccessful Jirga achieves consensus withoutdissent—a difficult feat given anothercommon Pashtun trait: fear of losing face byadmitting error or publicly changing position.As a result, successful jirgas usually requiretwo things—careful pre-negotiations, andtime for multiple sessions. Through pre-negotiations, participants in a Jirga attemptto iron out their major differences or at leastnarrow them to the smallest possible numberand the least controversy. Jirga membersdo not often change their positions duringa session—many sessions, therefore, endwithout resolution. But periods of quiet,prayer, and discussion between sessions
  • Defining Success in Afghanistanallow for further negotiations and forthe decent interval during which publiclydeclared positions can be subtly modified.In this way, Pashtuns can work their wayfrom disagreement to consensus withoutlosing face or sacrificing the moral forcethat comes from uniting the community (orgroups of communities) behind the decision.It is an arduous process, frustrating tomany Westerners, but it is natural for mostPashtuns and certainly among rural Pashtuns.Afghans have a tradition of selecting leadersthrough a Jirga. The first Afghan king,Ahmad Shah Durrani, was selected by aJirga, convened from among the leaders ofDurrani military commanders who had beenemployed by the recently deceased Persianking Nadir Shah. The Afghan Constitutionwas formally adopted in 2004 by a LoyaJirga (or Grand Jirga) that nominallyrepresented the major power blocks in
  • Afghanistan (apart from the Taliban, whowere excluded). In June 2010, PresidentKarzai held a “Peace Jirga,” aimed at beingsimilarly representative and, in fact, moreopen to Taliban participation, although itproduced little concrete result. The repeatedconvening of recent Afghan jirgas and LoyaJirgas, however, demonstrates that both theconcept and the practice of this key elementof Pashtunwali continue.Ahmad Shah Durrani was selected by aJirga, but he did not rule through one.His reign and, even more, those of hissuccessors were marked by steady effortsto increase the independence and authorityof the central government at the expenseof local leaders, warlords, power-brokers,communities, and so on. Challenges to thecentral authority resulted from disagreementsover who should be the central authorityand over specific policies, but also over therelationship between the center and thelocalities. In general terms, local leaders and
  • communities accepted a certain degree ofcentral authority but insisted on guaranteesthat their own traditional processes couldcontinue without interference. Local-versus-central tensions waxed and waned assuccessive rulers (and here we can include theCommunists, who sought an unprecedenteddegree of centralization) tried to increasetheir control and communities resisted. Thehistorical trend favored the centralizers.As is often the case with reactionarymovements, the leaders who supplanted“excessive” centralizers did not undo allof the centralizing their predecessors hadconducted. The central Afghan state overtime gained the ability to tax, to conscriptarmies, to wage war and make peace, toestablish macro-economic conditions, tolegislate, and to modify Afghanistan’s legalcode. By the time the Taliban seized power,no Afghan military or political movementseriously questioned these rights.
  • The Taliban itself, as reactionary a movementas Afghanistan has ever seen, did not attemptto dismantle the centralized state. On thecontrary, it sought to use the hard-wonprogress of its predecessors to implementits own, Islamist vision of just governance.The Taliban established ministries foreverything—including, in Islamist fashion,for the promotion of virtue and theprevention of vice, but also for fishing,agriculture, mining and industries, and so on.Taliban efforts at centralization fueled someresentment against the movement.None of the modern resistance movementsin Afghanistan—none of the mujahideenfactions fighting the Soviets, none ofthe Taliban factions, and none of theirNorthern Alliance opponents—have everadvocated destroying the unitary Afghanstate, federalizing it, eliminating the25Defining Success in Afghanistancentral government, devolving power to
  • communities, or otherwise undoing twocenturies of Afghan state-building. Thefundamental casus belli for each movementhas been, rather, who will control an Afghanstate, the shape and power (relative toethnicities or local communities) of whichall groups generally agree on. Resistancemovements have fought about what policiesthe state should pursue, but not aboutwhether the state should pursue policies, letalone whether or not it should exist. Thisfundamental agreement on the shape andbasic nature of the Afghan state stands inmarked contrast with, say, the United Statesof the Civil War era, Russia during its owncivil war, France during the Revolution, andYugoslavia after the Cold War. Afghansgenerally agree that there is and should besuch a thing as Afghanistan, that it shouldhave a central government, and, broadly, onthe kinds of powers that central governmentshould have. The disagreements, now as
  • ever, are about who should run the place andhow, exactly, it should be run.The current legal form of the governmentis a problem in this equation. The currentAfghan constitution, and the ways in whichit has been realized in practice, has created asystem in which the power of the executiveis not balanced either by a national legislatureor by local elected officials. Afghanistan’sparliament has extremely limited powersto resist presidential desires even when it isin session, and the constitution allows thepresident to rule effectively by decree whenit is not in session. The parliament does nothave effective “power of the purse” becauseof the way Afghan budgets are made andvoted on—and because the overwhelmingproportion of the Afghan state budgetcomes from the international communityand goes directly into executive institutionswithout requiring or permitting legislative26involvement. The president appoints
  • provincial and district governors at hisdiscretion and without even the requirementfor any legislature to “advise and consent”to the appointment; and no legislative bodyhas the authority to remove a presidentialappointee. Provincial and district councilsare directly elected, but, like the nationalparliament, have virtually no ability to checkthe actions of the presidential appointeeswho control the flow of money, the armedforces, and the police down to the locallevel. The current government structure, inother words, is fundamentally antithetical totraditional Pashtun expectations about therelationship between local communities andthe central government because it excludesthe communities from having a meaningfulvoice in almost any decision at any level.Corruption and abuse of power fuel theinsurgency in this context. Afghanistan’sprevious rulers were by no means pureand without flaw, although they never
  • demonstrated corruption on anything likethe scale of the current government, if onlybecause they never had access to resourceson this scale. But Afghans have nothistorically taken up arms against their rulersfor being corrupt. The corruption of thecurrent Afghan leadership, rather, reinforcesthe sense of injustice and helplessnesscreated by the imbalance of powers withinthe current Afghan state. It is precisely thatimbalance of powers, of course, that makespossible corruption on this scale in the firstplace.Neither the corruption nor the abuse ofpower is surprising. Although Karzaibecame Afghanistan’s leader through asomewhat traditional jirga process, he foundhimself at the head of a government thatdid not conform with Afghan traditions.He himself had a very limited power baseDefining Success in Afghanistanin the traditional sense. He had not beena prominent tribal leader before 2001—he
  • had not, in fact, been prominent at all. Hewas not chosen because he himself hadnegotiated the formation of a block ofpowerful leaders that he could then readilycontrol. He was chosen through a complex,internationally-mediated negotiationprocess because he was acceptable toall sides. He then had to try to governthrough a non-existent state in processof formation. Lacking a powerbase ofhis own and presented with powerfulexecutive authorities, he relied heavily on hisfamily and on known and trusted allies toconsolidate his position and perform statefunctions. Financial opportunities, such asthose provided by Kabul Bank, buttressedthe role of the Karzai family, created sharedfinancial interests with rivals, and enticedthem into supporting the government. Thetenuous balance of power created by thesemeans, within the Pashtun communityand between Karzai and the northern
  • powerbrokers, is fragile, unstable, andunsustainable over the long term.This method of governing through theexecutive does not accord with Afghanistan’sneeds and traditions. Presidential authorityand patronage have marginalized therole of traditional, collective communitydecision making within the Pashtuncommunity. As in the monarchical period,the central, executive authority mustcome to tailored agreements with Pashtunlocal communities and their consensus-making bodies to balance central authoritywith local desires. The relationships withnorthern powerbrokers must be placed ona more stable footing, based on politicalaccommodations rather than overt financialinterests. These adjustments should satisfymany of Karzai’s basic desires by creatinga longer term basis for stable, centralgovernance in a unitary state. It requiresan international guarantee of security forAfghanistan while short-term compromises
  • create fluctuations in the balance of poweramong rivals. But such a polity would bemuch more stable in the long term andmuch closer to what is required to achieveAmerican objectives in Afghanistan as well.The traditions of local, Pashtun, consensuspolitics remain in many communities and areviable as the counterinsurgency campaignreduces insurgent threats, actively seeks toinclude marginalized groups, and serves asa neutral conduit between the communityand the government. Communities seemgenerally to want some ability to rejectofficials, such as district governors or policechiefs, appointed by Kabul. Presidentialselection of provincial and district governors,for instance, to say nothing of their powers,is not defined by the constitution. TheAfghan parliament could pass a law callingfor the election of those positions andKarzai could ratify it, which is all that wouldbe required. Rebalancing the relationships
  • between legislative and executive bodies atevery level can also be done by law, by decreein some cases, or even simply by proceduralchanges.We must be very clear, however—movingto elective governors or more powerfullegislatures is not by itself a panacea andwould need to be undertaken cautiously. Aslong as powerful patronage networks controlkey parts of the Afghan state, such changeswould likely be cosmetic and could, in fact,destroy any remaining belief in the possibilityof political change among Afghans who nowfeel alienated from the government. Theinternational community has relied for toolong on structural and procedural approachesto Afghanistan’s problems. Success requireshelping to change the way Karzai and27Defining Success in AfghanistanAfghanistan’s elites see how the state can andshould be run—structures and proceduresare the details that will follow that change.
  • We are not starry-eyed about the prospect ofaccomplishing such change. It will be verydifficult, and it may prove impossible. Inthat case, our mission will fail with all of thedire consequences that will follow. But hardis not hopeless in Afghanistan any more thanit was in Iraq in 2007. There is sufficientpotential convergence of interests betweenthe U.S. and its allies and President Karzai,and indeed the ultimate desires of manyof his rivals, to suggest that success in thisendeavor is possible. There is also sufficientbasis in Afghanistan’s history and culture tosuggest that it can be enduring.NotesFor more information on the Quetta Shura Taliban,see http://www.understandingwar.org/files/QuettaShuraTaliban_1.pdf. For a brief descriptionof the Haqqani Network, visit http://www.understandingwar.org/themenode/haqqani-network.To read more about Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, seehttp://www.understandingwar.org/themenode/hezb-
  • e-islami-gulbuddin-hig.1This section was derived, in part, from “How Notto Defeat al Qaeda,” by Frederick W. Kagan andKimberly Kagan, The Weekly Standard, October 5,2009, accessible at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/017/011bhign.asp.2For more information on these enemy groups, seehttp://www.criticalthreats.org/pakistan/two-front-war and http://www.criticalthreats.org/pakistan/king-dead-long-live-king-hakimullah-mehsud-takes-power-ttp.3For more information on the al Qaeda andAssociated Movements (AQAM) network, please seethe forthcoming AEI Critical Threats Project report,“Al Qaeda’s Operating Environments,” atwww.criticalthreats.org.4Frederick W. Kagan is the director of the CriticalThreats Project at the American EnterpriseInstitute. Kimberly Kagan is president of the
  • Institute for the Study of War. Jeffrey Dressler andCarl Forsberg are research analysts at the Institutefor the Study of War.For the full text of the Lisbon Summit Declaration,see http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_68828.htm?mode=pressrelease.56McChrystal review, p. 2-2.For more information on the growth of the AfghanNational Security Forces, see “Accelerating CombatPower in Afghanistan,” by LTG James A. Dubik, U.S.Army (ret), Institute for the Study of War, December2009, accessible at http://www.understandingwar.org/report/accelerating-combat-power-in-afghanistan.728INSTITUTE FOR THEAMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTEFOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCHSTUDYof WARMilit ary A nal ysis a nd Educ ation
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