Executive Summary: After the Victory: America's Role in Afghanistan's Future
States has scored a decisive military victory in Afghanistan
against the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the radical Taliban
regime. Now it must work to assure a stable peace. The Taliban and
its al-Qaeda allies remain a potentially destabilizing force in
both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. The priority for U.S.
policy must be to hunt down the terrorist leaders and bring them to
justice. Long-term political stability will require secure
international economic support and multilateral cooperation from
Afghanistan's neighbors, particularly a reformed Pakistan.
In attempting to shore up the Afghan state, Washington must not
succumb to the temptation of nation building. Afghanistan 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 by
Washington or the United Nations. To create a stable political
environment favorable to regional peace as well as U.S. interests,
the 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.
the United States should now:
strategy and reconfigure its military forces in Afghanistan for a
low-intensity counter-guerrilla war.
To root out the
remaining small contingents al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, the United
States should rely increasingly on small, mobile, special forces
units backed by air power and air-mobile ground troops. These units
should work with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary
units and the Afghan central government to cultivate intelligence
sources among the local populations, and to help identify, locate,
and capture fugitive al-Qaeda bands and the top Taliban
resources to support limited non-combat functions, as
Though the United States should not commit
its overburdened military resources to additional humanitarian,
basic security, or peacekeeping functions, its resources could be
used to support those activities in cases of emergency.
Help train the
Afghanistan's stability will depend
largely on its ability to raise and maintain a self-sustaining
army. The United States and a few of its allies are uniquely
equipped carry out this vital mission.
expertise to the Afghan government on building infrastructure and
Limited teams of civil affairs, public
affairs, and psychological warfare experts, as well as military
engineers and American international development personnel, should
provide their expertise to help rebuild Afghanistan's
infrastructure and civil institutions.
Make clear that
America's primary interest is to prevent agents of international
terrorism from using any part of the country as a base of
The United States should maintain a limited
but highly mobile force to prevent the reappearance of terrorist
cells in Afghanistan.
timetables for the operation based on war aims.
President has done an outstanding job in setting the war aims, he
must not succumb to pressure to define victory by arbitrary time
constraints. Doing so would result in a strategy driven by time
rather than by objectives.
committing U.S. combat troops to a U.N. peacekeeping
At no time should the United States commit troops
to the International Security Assistance Force, which could take
limited resources away from the broader war on terrorism.
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 interim
government in Kabul. The best approach is to win over regional
leaders, not to bully or attack them head-on. This approach would
limit the possibilities that the international force would get
caught up in the bitter internal rivalries that dominate Afghan
Support a new
political arrangement that conforms to the facts on the
U.S. policy must be based on Afghanistan's
political and ethnic conditions. The best framework for a new
Afghan government would be stable but limited central authority
with much power devolved to the tribal level. The United States
should broker a settlement between the interim government and the
country's powerful regional leaders. Such a confederalist approach
would lock those leaders into the postwar settlement as positive
forces for stability rather than as potentially disruptive
technical advice and aid geared toward judicial reform to bolster
Afghan economic opportunities.
The Karzai government and
certain regional leaders will need technical assistance to
establish a judiciary that safeguards property rights. Wherever
possible, the United States should encourage regional free trade
initiatives, particularly on textiles and agricultural products, to
speed economic growth.
The United States decisively won the first phase of the
war in Afghanistan, but now it must adjust its strategy and win the
peace. To achieve this next victory, 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. Washington should help the Afghans rebuild a stable
political system and functioning economy, but only the Afghans
themselves can build a nation.
is Research Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies,
is Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security,
and John C. Hulsman,
., is Research Fellow in European Affairs in the Kathryn
and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The