The United States has scored a decisive military victory in
Afghanistan against the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the radical
Taliban regime and must now work to assure a stable peace. Although
the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies1 were forced to flee into
hiding, they remain a potentially destabilizing force in both
Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. The paramount U.S. goal must
be to hunt down the top leaders of these Islamic terrorist
movements and bring them to justice. The direct threat that they
pose to Americans also has given the United States a clear stake in
the establishment of a stable Afghan government that can actively
block their return to power.
In cooperation with the multinational International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF), U.S. military forces should play a role as
the ultimate guarantor of the interim government under President
Hamid Karzai. Though the priority of U.S. policy must be to hunt
down the terrorist leaders, for long-term political stability it
will be crucial to secure international economic support and
multilateral cooperation among Afghanistan's neighbors,
particularly in a reformed Pakistan.2
In attempting to shore up the Afghan state, Washington must not
succumb to the temptation of nation building, as some suggest.
Afghanistan is a country, but not a nation. Its territory has long
been divided by deep-seated geographic, ethnic, religious, and
tribal cleavages, and it would be foolhardy to assume that these
divisions can be overcome by foreign social engineering imposed
from Washington or the United Nations. Afghan Communists, backed by
the military might of the Soviet Union, were unable to impose their
rule after a 1978 coup despite 14 years of war that claimed over a
million Afghan lives. The extremist Taliban failed to impose its
will in northern non-Pushtun areas after coming to power in 1996
despite the support of the Pakistani army, thousands of foreign
Islamic militants, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from
Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists.
Twenty-three years of continuous warfare have created a complex
constellation of regional, tribal, and ethnic leaders, including
some denigrated as "warlords" in the Western media. These stubborn
and hardy survivors of Afghanistan's kaleidoscopic politics will
not meekly accede to foreign plans for nation building or bow down
to a Kabul-based central government if they perceive that doing so
threatens their personal power. To create a stable political
environment favorable to regional peace as well as to U.S.
interests, quarrelsome factional leaders in Afghanistan must be
convinced that they have much to gain by cooperating with the
U.S.-backed central government and much to lose by opposing it.
To this long-term end, the United States should make clear that
its primary interest is to prevent international terrorists from
using any part of the country as a base of operations in the
future. It should revise its military strategy for fighting a
low-intensity counter-guerrilla war and provide military resources
for limited non-combat functions, as appropriate. The President
should resist pressure to define victory in Afghanistan by
arbitrary timetables instead of war aims. U.S. combat troops should
not be committed to a U.N. peacekeeping or nation-building effort
in Afghanistan, as some have suggested; nor should they be used to
support the expansion of the mission of the international
peacekeeping force beyond its current role.
The United States should provide expert help to train an
Afghanistan army and build infrastructure as well as civil
institutions. It should also consider limited technical advice and
aid to Kabul to encourage judicial reforms that bolster economic
opportunities for the Afghan people. And it should support a new
political arrangement in Afghanistan that conforms to the political
facts on the ground.
GROWING POLITICAL STRAIN IN AFGHANISTAN
The United States won an overwhelming military victory in the
first phase of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The
military operations, begun less than a month after the September 11
terrorist attacks on America, had successfully driven the Taliban
out of power in Kabul by mid-November, even before the World Trade
Center ruins in New York had stopped smoldering.
Today, the situation in Afghanistan is extremely favorable
militarily for the United States and its allies. Approximately
7,000 U.S. soldiers have been deployed, along with 5,000
peacekeeping troops in the ISAF to maintain order in the capital.
The al-Qaeda forces, after briefly trying to make a stand in their
longtime mountain redoubt at Tora Bora and then vainly trying to
regroup near Gardez, have been forced to disperse and go into
hiding. Most of them are believed to have fled into Pakistan.3
In spite of the favorable military situation, however, the
political situation in Afghanistan is increasingly troubling.
Although U.S. troops have captured or killed roughly half of the
top 30 leaders of the Taliban, they have not captured Mullah
Mohammed Omar, its supreme leader, or many of his chief
lieutenants. This is an indication that many Afghans, particularly
the ethnic Pushtuns of southeastern Afghanistan, have refused to
cooperate in hunting down these leaders. Some Pushtuns,
particularly in the Taliban's former strongholds in southern
Afghanistan, have helped them to avoid capture. Many Pushtuns,
members of the largest ethnic group that historically has dominated
Afghan politics, clearly resent the ascendancy of Tajik leaders
from the northern part of the country in the interim government
formed in June. The Tajiks, along with members of the Uzbek and
Hazara ethnic groups, had formed the backbone of the Northern
Alliance opposition to the Taliban regime.
The current government is to rule for two years until elections
are held to form a new one. Hamid Karzai, president of the interim
government, is a Pushtun from southern Afghanistan who has sought
to broaden his ruling coalition by including more Pushtun leaders.
These efforts suffered a setback on July 6 when Vice President Haji
Abdul Qadir, the second highest-ranking ethnic Pushtun in the
government, was assassinated in Kabul. Qadir, a man who had many
enemies, could have been the target of the Taliban, which he had
fought for many years; al-Qaeda; or Afghan drug smugglers
threatened by his efforts to eradicate the poppy crop, which the
Taliban and al-Qaeda have relied on in part to help fund their
operations.4 His unsolved assassination has ignited suspicions
among Pushtuns that he fell victim to the Tajik-dominated
intelligence and internal security services, which could drive a
bigger wedge between Pushtuns and non-Pushtuns in the
Afghan domestic politics recently were roiled by a July 1
incident in the village of Kakarak 70 miles north of Kandahar. An
American AC-130 gunship, providing fire support for a U.S. special
forces team that had been fired upon, reportedly killed over 40
Afghans, including 25 at a wedding celebration. This special forces
operation was part of the U.S. campaign to hunt down Mullah Omar
and several of his lieutenants who reportedly are hiding nearby in
their home province of Uruzgan.5
President George W. Bush called President Karzai to apologize
for the incident, but the deaths prompted the first anti-American
demonstration in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban. The incident
also led the governor of the Kandahar province, Gul Agha Sherzai,
to propose that U.S. military forces obtain the permission of
provincial governors before launching military operations in their
territories. Although the Karzai government and other provincial
governors rejected that proposal, they are under intensifying
public pressure to distance themselves from the U.S.-led war
effort, which is becoming more unpopular among southern Pushtuns,
the former power base of the Taliban.
Each tragic friendly-fire incident erodes the political standing
of the United States and its relationship with the interim
government in Kabul. Various Pushtun tribes could become more
hostile to the U.S. military presence and to the Karzai government
if they conclude that the efforts to capture Taliban leaders are
part of a broader plan to assure the domination of non-Pushtun
minority factions over the Pushtun tribal belt.
The window of opportunity in which many Afghans, even former
Pushtun supporters of the Taliban, give the United States the
benefit of the doubt may be closing. Afghanistan's bitter political
rivalries are intensifying. The fragile Northern Alliance coalition
is gradually dissolving amid tensions among the dominant Tajik
Jamiat Islami faction, General Abdul Rashid Dostam's Uzbek faction,
and the smaller Hazara factions. Warlords jealously guard their
independence by playing one foreign power against another. For
example, Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat province, has exploited
Iranian aid to maintain an independent power base, while General
Dostam receives heavy support from Uzbekistan and Russia.
The most dangerous trend is that the southern Pushtuns are
becoming disenchanted with the interim government, which they
believe does not adequately advance their interests. The recent
assassination of Pushtun leader Haji Abdul Qadir and continued
friction over the government's support for the U.S. hunt for
Taliban leaders in their Pushtun strongholds are likely to
exacerbate this trend. More friendly-fire incidents like the July 1
attack are likely to stoke anti-American sentiments in the Pushtun
areas of southeastern Afghanistan, the focal point of the ongoing
U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
These troubling trends have prompted calls on Capitol Hill for
increased U.S. involvement in peacekeeping operations and efforts
to assure Afghanistan's internal security. On July 7, three
well-meaning U.S. Senators--Evan Bayh (D-IN), Chuck Hagel (R-NE),
and Bob Graham (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee--called for expansion of the U.S. military presence
inside Afghanistan.6 Such an expansion of the U.S. military
commitment, with its resulting mission creep, is ill-advised and
could have dangerous consequences.
U.S. MILITARY INVOLVEMENT
The successful military campaign in Afghanistan is a testament
to America's warfighting abilities, especially when one considers
that on September 10 no war plan was on the shelf for an Afghan
invasion and that General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief of U.S.
Central Command, had received the order to begin planning the
action on September 20. The campaign began less than three weeks
later. The success of the campaign thus far can be attributed to
the fact that President Bush and his military planners followed a
few simple rules about how and when to apply military force:7
RULE #1: Use military force to defend America's national
Following the September 11 attacks, the United States could no
longer ignore the threat of terrorism against the homeland.
Although Americans and U.S. territory have been targeted by
terrorists repeatedly in recent years (such as in the 1993 World
Trade Center bombing, the August 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and
Tanzania, and the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole), the
magnitude of the September 11 attacks underscored America's
vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the September 11 attacks confirmed
that some terrorists will use any means to inflict as much damage
as possible on the United States.8
Combined with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
the threat to national security posed by this radical form of
terrorism is unlike any the nation has ever faced. All elements of
national power need to be harnessed to defeat it, including the use
of military force.
RULE #2: Military goals should be clearly defined, decisive,
attainable, and sustainable.
The Bush Administration has been clear about what its objectives
are and are not. The broad military objective of the war on
terrorism is "to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house
or support them."9 In Afghanistan, a training ground for global
terrorism, the U.S. military goals are to "deprive the terrorists
of a sanctuary...where they could safely plan, train, and
organize--not only to capture and kill terrorists, but to drain the
swamp in which they breed."10
Just as important is the clarity of the U.S. goals neither to
occupy Afghanistan nor to dictate the final form of the
post-Taliban government. Forging democratic institutions in
Afghanistan is not a requisite of success. The United States can
accept a non-democratic postwar Afghanistan as long as that country
no longer serves as a base for anti-American terrorists. Until this
goal is assured, U.S. armed forces must remain present and active.
Once that goal has been achieved, the United States must
re-evaluate its continuing military contribution.
RULE #3: Military force in Afghanistan should not be committed
at the expense of more important security commitments.
One of the flaws in U.S. foreign and military policy during the
1990s was an over-commitment of U.S. military forces to missions
that had little or nothing to do with America's important national
security interests. The result was an overextended and underfunded
force, which spent much of its time on missions it was not designed
to conduct, such as those in the Balkans, Somalia, and Haiti.
In contrast, the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan was directly tied
to the defense of vital U.S. interests: self-defense against Osama
bin Laden's lethal global terrorist network. The threat posed by
al-Qaeda, backed by the Taliban, was so severe that the United
States had no choice but to take whatever action was necessary to
defeat it. Now that the threats posed by terrorists in Afghanistan
have subsided, the President will need to make decisions about
future military resource allocation as new theaters in the war on
RULE #4: The use of military force should enjoy public
Public support of military efforts in Afghanistan has not waned.
An April 2002 Gallup poll shows that up to 88 percent of Americans
believe the United States should keep troops in Afghanistan.11 This
is important because, without public and congressional support,
prolonged military engagement will be extremely difficult to
sustain. Public support will help keep troop morale high and give
politicians the will to do what is right for the nation.
RULE#5: Allow the armed forces to succeed.
Unlike military operations of the recent past, President Bush
gave America's military leaders the freedom to develop war plans
for Afghanistan that were based on the best way to achieve the
objectives, not the best way to appease opponents. With this
freedom, General Franks was able to develop and execute a
successful war plan on very short notice. He was allowed to use
indigenous forces to the extent he deemed necessary, which in turn
has allowed him to keep America's military footprint in Afghanistan
By staying out of internal Afghan disagreements, the United
States has been able to pursue relationships that best facilitate
its military objectives. This is important in making sure that U.S.
forces are not perceived as an occupying force. With this strategy,
the United States has been able to advance its campaign rapidly
with only around 7,000 troops, rather than the 100,000-200,000 many
predicted would be needed.
Although the warfighting mission is far from over, the campaign
to ensure that the "last remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban are
flushed out and destroyed"12 must evolve into a reconstruction
mission. Indeed, in some respects it already has. America has come
under greater pressure to commit more of its military resources to
this effort. Given the importance to national security of helping
to build an Afghanistan that does not export terrorism, some U.S.
military resources may be legitimately committed to a
reconstitution effort. The critical point is to avoid committing
U.S. military resources to activities that can be accomplished by
other nations, organizations, or even other U.S. government
THE U.S. ROLE IN REBUILDING A STABLE AFGHANISTAN
America's armed forces have done their jobs valiantly in
Afghanistan. Organized and trained to fight the nation's wars, that
is what they do best. Ultimately, however, the responsibility of
guaranteeing a peaceful future belongs to the Afghan people, not to
U.S. armed forces or policymakers. The United States should support
the Afghan people in their efforts to rebuild their country, but
the highest priority for the U.S. armed services should be to
destroy the Islamic extremist groups that pose a continuing
destabilizing threat to Afghanistan.
To that end, the United States should:
Revise the strategy and reconfigure U.S. military forces in
Afghanistan to fight a low-intensity counter-guerrilla war.
war in Afghanistan is evolving into a new phase. Al-Qaeda and
Taliban forces have dispersed into small contingents after
relatively heavy losses at Tora Bora in December and Shah-I-Kot in
March. Searching for and destroying these small unit formations is
a task better suited to special forces units backed by precise air
strikes than to large conventional ground forces. Pentagon
officials already have concluded that the combat mission of
conventional troops has largely been accomplished in Afghanistan.13
The British Royal Marines, who were deployed along the
Afghan-Pakistani border for six months, recently were withdrawn
after failing to engage in any major combat actions.
The United States should adapt to the new stage of the war by
relying increasingly on small, highly mobile special forces units,
backed by air power and air-mobile ground troops. These units
should work closely with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
paramilitary units and the Afghan central government to cultivate
intelligence sources among the local populations, particularly in
the southern Pushtun tribal belt, to help identify, locate, and
capture fugitive al-Qaeda bands and the top Taliban leadership.
Bolstering intelligence capabilities is critical to minimizing the
risk of friendly-fire incidents, which undermine U.S.
counterinsurgency efforts as well as the central government.
Once Mullah Omar is captured or killed, U.S. forces should turn
primary responsibility for hunting Taliban leaders over to the
Afghan government and focus almost exclusively on eradicating
al-Qaeda units, which pose a greater threat to U.S. interests. By
concentrating on hunting foreign terrorists rather than Afghans,
the United States can reduce the risk of accidentally killing
civilians and improve the chances of gaining local support for the
The critical theater of the war is now shifting from Afghanistan to
Pakistan, where al-Qaeda remnants have found sanctuary along the
border among Pushtun tribes that have long enjoyed considerable
autonomy, largely free from Pakistani government control. Pakistani
President Musharraf's government has started to crack down on
al-Qaeda sympathizers along the border, particularly in south
Waziristan where 10 Pakistani soldiers were killed in June in a
firefight with al-Qaeda members and their Pakistani
On July 3, Pakistani soldiers killed four al-Qaeda
terrorists--three Chechens and a Saudi.14 The United States has
dispatched special operations troops, CIA officers, and
reconnaissance equipment, including five surveillance helicopters,
to assist Pakistani efforts. Washington must work closely with
Islamabad to combat al-Qaeda not only along the western frontier
but throughout Pakistan. It should hold the Musharraf government
firmly to its pledge of full cooperation in the war against
terrorism. To accomplish this, Washington should encourage
Musharraf to purge the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
directorate, which helped create and support the Taliban, of its
remaining Islamist officers.15 Pakistani cooperation is crucial to
rooting out Islamic extremists in the Pushtun tribal belt that
straddles the border with Afghanistan.
Provide military resources to support limited non-combat
functions, as appropriate.
Though the United States should not commit its overburdened
military resources to humanitarian, basic security, or peacekeeping
functions in Afghanistan, its resources could be used to support
those functions if certain criteria are met. The activity, for
example, should be one that only the United States can achieve,
such as airlift or extraction of endangered people in cases of
emergency. And the function must be consistent with the wishes of
the Afghan people.
U.S. armed forces should not be held responsible for providing
general security for Afghanistan and must not create expectations
that they are responsible for rebuilding the country. Even if they
were capable of doing so, the Afghan people would likely perceive
the United States as overstepping its bounds. The international
community can provide much of the help Afghanistan will need should
the Afghans request such help. The Germans are taking the lead in
training an Afghan police force, for example, and while the United
States is also involved, U.S. military resources should not be
committed to such a mission.
Help train the Afghanistan army. Long-term security in
Afghanistan will depend on many variables, including the success of
the Afghan National Army. U.S Army instructors began recruiting and
training troops for this national army in May. The United States
should continue to commit military resources to this effort. Many
U.S. special operations units, for example, are fully prepared to
train foreign militaries.
The mission to train and build a self-sustaining army is something
that the United States and a few of its allies are uniquely
equipped to do. Because it will affect the long-term success of a
new Afghan government, this mission supports U.S. national
security. However, this commitment should be of limited duration,
and when its objective has been reached, it should end. The current
objective is to train 14,400 soldiers in the next year and a
Provide expertise to the Afghan government on building
infrastructure and civil institutions. Limited teams of
Department of Defense personnel should remain in Afghanistan beyond
the warfighting phase. Special operating teams made up of civil
affairs, public affairs, and psychological warfare experts as well
as military engineers and American international development
personnel should work with the interim government, regional
leaders, and tribal chiefs in key regions to provide advice and
assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan's infrastructure and civil
institutions. Military advisers should be integrated throughout the
Afghan army to facilitate stability as well.
Make clear that America's primary interest is to prevent
agents of international terrorism from using any part of
Afghanistan as a base of operations. To achieve this objective,
the threat of massive and immediate U.S. military retaliation must
be credible. The United States should maintain a limited but highly
mobile force over the horizon, prepared to strike quickly and
decisively to prevent the reappearance of terrorist cells in
Afghanistan. Politically, at both the central government and
regional levels, the message should be clear: Anyone who harbors
terrorists that target the United States will forfeit their
political power and risk the loss of their own lives.
Create realistic timetables for operations. Though the
President has done an outstanding job in setting the war aims and
allowing his military leaders to develop and implement a plan to
achieve them, as the war wears on he will come under increasing
pressure to establish a timetable for ending the operation. He must
not succumb to this pressure, or time--rather than war aims--will
define strategy. The President must be prepared to invest as much
time as is necessary to achieve the objectives that he clearly
stated after September 11.
Realistically, the United States may have to maintain special
forces in Afghanistan for an extended period in order to
systematically root out, in cooperation with the Afghan government,
the pockets of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. After all, al-Qaeda had
a full decade to assemble its forces. A combined U.S.-Afghan rapid
reaction force should be developed to conduct these
Rule out committing U.S. combat troops to a U.N.
peacekeeping effort. At no time should the United States commit
troops to the International Security Assistance Force, the U.N.
peacekeeping body in Afghanistan. The ISAF consists of 5,000 troops
from 19 countries who have been providing security in and around
Kabul. Its objective is to "assist the Afghan Interim Authority in
the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding area,"17
not to protect U.S. national security interests. Committing U.S.
troops to this force would take limited resources from the broader
war on terrorism. In a nation like Afghanistan, Americans also
could become political targets.
U.S. military resources also should not be committed to more
humanitarian operations. It is true that humanitarian operations
have contributed to the war effort from the earliest stages. The
United States has provided many tons of food and health supplies to
the ravaged Afghan people, and U.S. soldiers have been repairing
hospitals, digging wells, and building schools. In fact, this
campaign has been a war to liberate the Afghan people from one of
the most brutally oppressive regimes in existence. But now that the
Taliban has fallen, al-Qaeda is on the run, and public institutions
are beginning to take hold, U.S. military resources can be better
applied to other activities. Other U.S. agencies, other countries,
and international organizations should now take the lead to provide
Resist efforts to expand the mission of the international
peacekeeping force beyond its present limited role. The
overused suggestion that the United Sates should replicate its
efforts in postwar Germany and Japan is the wrong way to bolster
the Karzai government in Kabul. In particular, ISAF troops should
not be used to try to disarm warlords, as some in the United
Nations have recommended. This kind of mission creep would be a
prescription for an explosive and counterproductive backlash.
Overly ambitious efforts to disarm warlords in Somalia in 1993
culminated in a disastrous commando mission that resulted in the
deaths of 18 U.S. special forces troops and hundreds of Somalis,
and eventually led to the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping
The best approach is to win over regional leaders by patiently
co-opting them, not seeking to bully them or to attack them
head-on. Rather than duplicate the failed Somali model of
peacekeeping intervention, which led to a disastrous confrontation
with clan warlords, the United States should seek to bring Afghan
warlords into a ruling coalition. They should be given a stake in
cooperating with the central government by gaining access to
international aid, government jobs for their sons, and the promise
of government pensions. Over time, their armed supporters should be
incorporated into the national army or pro-government regional
It is unrealistic to expect that Afghans will soon abandon their
traditional mode of tribal politics. The best that can be expected
is that the political rules of the game can be changed
incrementally as tribal leaders and regional warlords learn that
they can gain more through cooperation with the U.S.-backed central
government and with each other than they can by sticking to the old
"winner takes all" spoils system.
Such an approach would limit the risks that the ISAF would get
caught up in the bitter internal rivalries that dominate Afghan
politics. As U.S. ground troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan,
there may be a need to expand the size of the ISAF and increase its
area of operations to help fill the security gap. But the ISAF's
mission should not be expanded to include disarming the warlords.
This inevitably would backfire by triggering a xenophobic backlash
against foreign domination.
Turkey, which has taken the leading role in ISAF and has
contributed the largest contingent of troops, can play a
particularly important role in stabilizing Afghanistan. Ankara's
ethnic and political ties with Afghanistan go back to the 1920s,
when Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal (later Kemal Ataturk) helped
the Afghan king organize his army. The model devised by Ataturk--of
a secular, pro-Western, yet majority Muslim state--is precisely the
kind of concept that the United States would like to extend in the
region. It can obviously best be done by its adherents rather than
by well-meaning nation-builders in Washington.
Given their shrinking defense budgets, many of America's European
allies are unable to contribute meaningfully to the warfighting
effort against al-Qaeda. But their strong civil-military traditions
would enable them (with the United States supplying the requisite
lift, logistics, communications, and intelligence assets) to serve
successfully in limited peacekeeping missions, such as in Kabul.
The presence of the German peacekeepers, the second largest
contingent in the ISAF, has helped enable U.S. forces to
concentrate on their global military operations against al-Qaeda
cells and prepare for a possible operation in Iraq without
lessening their combat readiness or stretching them dangerously
Support a new political arrangement that conforms to the
facts on the ground. U.S. policy must correspond with
Afghanistan's on-the-ground political and ethnic conditions and not
attempt to impose some sort of top-down diktat from Washington. The
relevant political unit there is the tribe, and the central
government traditionally plays a correspondingly weak role.
The best framework for a new government would be a stable but
limited central authority, with much power devolved to the regional
or tribal level. Afghanistan, a construct of 19th century British
imperial policy, is not so much a nation as a haphazard collection
of tribes. The structure reflects British administrative
convenience more than ethnic or historical logic.19 Thus, a
"one-man, one-vote" framework may be less important to the ordinary
Afghan than his tribe's inclusion in the national decision-making
structure. Bolstering a political solution that corresponds with
these realities--a very limited quasi-confederal outcome--is the
only political option that stands any hope of long-term
In line with this approach, the United States should broker a
settlement between the Karzai government and the country's powerful
regional leaders. Regional leaders should support U.S. training of
an Afghan national army and acquiesce to that army's keeping
internal order. In return, all the major tribes and their leaders
should be scrupulously included in all major decisions throughout
the emergence of the limited central government. In addition, the
United States should encourage that political arrangements between
the center and the country's periphery should leave tribes and
regions with the lion's share of power.
Such a diplomatic approach would make stakeholders of the regional
leaders in the settlement, giving them ongoing interest in
preserving stability. Making clear that they would retain
significant power would restore a measure of pluralism to the
negotiations and force them to explain their decisions to their
tribal populations. Such a confederalist approach would lock
regional leaders into the postwar settlement, changing them from
potentially disruptive agents into positive forces for
Offer limited technical advice and aid geared toward
judicial reform to bolster Afghan economic opportunities.
Beyond taking the decisive role in training the Afghan army, the
U.S. should offer to provide the Karzai government and certain
regional leaders with technical assistance to establish a judiciary
that safeguards property rights. As a limited "trade and not aid"
policy initiative, it would increase the likelihood that Afghans
would see long-term economic growth and secure property rights. It
would help them begin the arduous process of developing the rule of
law that integrates Afghanistan into the international
As explained in a recent Economist article, tailoring technical
aid to bolster free trade, as a policy, answers critics of nation
building; it allows countries to help themselves, setting them on
the path to sustainable growth.20 Wherever possible, the United
States should encourage regional free trade initiatives,
particularly on textiles and agricultural products. Lowering
barriers to trade in these sectors is the most likely way to speed
economic growth in underdeveloped countries.
The United States decisively won the first phase of the war in
Afghanistan, but now it must adjust its strategy and win the peace.
Continued U.S. engagement is critical to putting Afghanistan on the
right track. Washington's disengagement from Afghan affairs
following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal had contributed to the ability
of the ultra-radical Taliban to seize power and eventually to
threaten U.S. interests. U.S. policymakers must remember that
The United States should remain engaged militarily for several
years to root out the pockets of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that
have burrowed into remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it
should not commit military forces to an open-ended peacekeeping
mission or a nation-building experiment. U.S. military troops are
needed to eliminate the terrorists and crush rogue regimes that
support them, not to undertake vague missions to "win hearts and
minds." Such political goals are better pursued by other means,
including diplomacy, economic aid, and technical assistance.
The United States owes many Afghans a debt of gratitude. They
helped to block Soviet expansion at a critical time during the Cold
War and helped to uproot Osama bin Laden's terrorists from
sanctuaries in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Washington
should help the Afghans rebuild a stable political system and
functioning economy, which would enable them to block the return to
power of Islamic extremists.
U.S. policymakers should not succumb to the temptation of using
thinly stretched U.S. military forces in an overly ambitious
nation-building role. U.S. military forces are simply not designed
for that mission, and it detracts from their effectiveness.
Moreover, as Samuel Huntington, Director of the Harvard Institute
for Strategic Studies, has noted, "to intrude from outside is
either imperialism or colonialism, each of which violates American
America can help create an environment in Afghanistan for the
establishment of a stable government, and it can help the Afghans
rebuild important state institutions, including a national army and
a police force. But only the Afghans themselves can build a
A. Phillipsis Research Fellow in Middle
Eastern Studies, Jack
Spenceris Policy Analyst for Defense and National
Security, and John C.
Hulsman, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in European
Affairs in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for
International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
1. For an analysis of the relationship between bin Laden's
al-Qaeda network and the Taliban, see James Phillips, "Defusing
Terrorism at Ground Zero: Why a New U.S. Policy Is Needed for
Afghanistan," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1383, July 12,
2. See James Phillips, "Keys to the Endgame in Afghanistan,"
Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1507, December 6, 2001.
3. Many al-Qaeda members also crossed Pakistan to go into
Kashmir after the defeat of the Taliban. Western diplomats estimate
that about 300 members of al-Qaeda currently operate in that
troubled region. See Thom Shanker and Celia Dugger, "Rumsfeld Sees
Indications of Qaeda's Operating in Kashmir," The New York Times,
June 13, 2002, p. A14.
4. Qadir, who oversaw the Western-financed campaign to halt the
growing of poppy plants for the production of opium and heroin,
recently had complained that some of the farmers who were slated to
be paid $500 per acre to uproot their poppy crops had not received
the payments he had promised them. Qadir, who was suspected of past
involvement in the drug trade, also may have made enemies by
favoring one drug mafia over another one. See Dexter Filkins,
"Afghan Killing May Be Linked to Drug Trade," The New York Times,
July 8, 2002, p. A6.
5. Pentagon officials noted that U.S. forces were fired on three
times in the month before the incident by Afghans who later claimed
that they were merely "celebrating." See Michael Elliott, "Are We
Losing the Peace?" Time, July 15, 2002, at
6. "Senators Push for Active Afghan Role," Associated Press,
July 7, 2002.
7. These rules are based on the Weinberger Doctrine that laid
the groundwork for the Powell Doctrine, which was used by former
Heritage analyst John Hillen to develop guidelines for U.S.
military intervention. See John Hillen, "American Military
Intervention: A User's Guide," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No.
1079, May 2, 1996. The Weinberger Doctrine stated that U.S. troops
should be committed to combat abroad only if it is deemed vital to
U.S. national interests or those of U.S. allies; if it is made
wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning; if the
political and military objectives and the ways to meet them are
clearly defined; if, as conditions change, the commitment remains
in the national interest; if, before a commitment is made, there is
some reasonable assurance of popular and congressional support; and
if the commitment to arms is a last resort. See also editorial,
"The Weinberger Doctrine," The Washington Post, November 30, 1984.
The Powell Doctrine added to these rules that the United States
should use overwhelming force to defeat an enemy.
8. Many commissions and reports had warned that the terrorist
threat was growing in magnitude. "Countering the Changing Threat of
International Terrorism," the 1998 report of the National
Commission on Terrorism (Bremer Commission) is one of the most
9. As described at
(July 22, 2002).
10. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, statement
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Developments in
Afghanistan," June 26, 2002.
11. PollingReport.com, "War on Terrorism," April 1-2, 2002,
available at www.pollingreport.com/terror3.htm.
12. Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, statement
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Developments in
Afghanistan," June 26, 2002.
13. Thomas Ricks, "War Shifts from Combat Sweeps to Small Units
Probing Shadows," The Washington Post, July 7, 2002, p. A1.
14. John Lancaster, "Many in Pakistan Mourn Slain Al-Qaeda
Militants," The Washington Post, July 7, 2002, p. A12.
15. Musharraf fired the head of ISI last fall after he was
confronted with intelligence that ISI continued to send military
aid to the Taliban three weeks after the September 11 attacks. See
Peter Tomsen, "Post-Taliban Afghanistan and Regional Cooperation in
Central Asia," Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, Vol.
VII, No. 1 (March-May 2002), p. 34.
16. This recommendation is based on one by General David Grange,
described in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee on June 26, 2002.
17. Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Daily
Press Briefing, December 21, 2001.
18. See James Phillips, "Somalia and Al-Qaeda: Implications for
the War Against Terrorism," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No.
1526, April 5, 2002.
19. See Marina Ottaway and Anatol Lieven, "Rebuilding
Afghanistan: Fantasy versus Reality," Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace Policy Brief No. 12, January 2002, pp. 1-2.
20. Bill Emmott, "Building Countries, Feeling Generous," The
Economist, June 29, 2002, p. 17.
21. Samuel Huntington, "American Ideals versus American
Interests," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 97, No. 1 (Spring
1982), p. 20.