Strategy and Policy Choices for America's Longest War
Publication Year: 2012
The United States and its allies have been fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan for a decade in a war that either side could still win. While a gradual drawdown has begun, significant numbers of US combat troops will remain in Afghanistan until at least 2014, perhaps longer, depending on the situation on the ground and the outcome of the US presidential election in 2012. Given the realities of the Taliban's persistence and the desire of US policymakers -- and the public -- to find a way out, what can and should be the goals of the US and its allies in Afghanistan?
Afghan Endgames brings together some of the finest minds in the fields of history, strategy, anthropology, ethics, and mass communications to provide a clear, balanced, and comprehensive assessment of the alternatives for restoring peace and stability to Afghanistan. Presenting a range of options -- from immediate withdrawal of all coalition forces to the maintenance of an open-ended, but greatly reduced military presence -- the contributors weigh the many costs, risks, and benefits of each alternative.
This important book boldly pursues several strands of thought suggesting that a strong, legitimate central government is far from likely to emerge in Kabul; that fewer coalition forces, used in creative ways, may have better effects on the ground than a larger, more conventional presence; and that, even though Pakistan should not be pushed too hard, so as to avoid sparking social chaos there, Afghanistan's other neighbors can and should be encouraged to become more actively involved. The volume's editors conclude that while there may never be complete peace in Afghanistan, a self-sustaining security system able to restore order swiftly in the wake of violence is attainable.
Published by: Georgetown University Press
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This book began as a research project funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. We would like to thank Ben Riley, a principal deputy in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Evaluation, for his generous support and encouragement. His agile mind and keen insights have done much to guide and advance this work and other undertakings of ours over the years. ...
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In most wars the outcome is often predictable long before the fighting stops. The fate of the Axis powers in World War II was foreseeable as early as 1942, with the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad and the Japanese at Midway, yet the conflict raged on until 1945. Similarly, 1968 was the watershed time in the Vietnam War; by then it was clear to many that the United States would not defeat the insurgents. ...
Part I: Overview
1 Understanding the Afghan Challenge
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More than a decade into the American intervention in Afghanistan, the status quo there is untenable. The overthrow of the Taliban in 2001–2 had near universal support and was briefly the top foreign policy priority of the United States. But Afghanistan’s importance was downgraded during the Bush administration’s first term because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It became the “other war” within policymaking circles and our commitment to this campaign became unclear. ...
2 A Familiar Western Experience in Ancient Afghanistan
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The ancient Greek and Macedonian experience in areas that are now incorporated within modern Afghanistan offers eerie parallels to the current, American-led NATO efforts there to defeat the Taliban and foster consensual government under Hamid Karzai. Ancient Greek speakers had little trouble initially overrunning the country and scattering tribal enemies. In time they were able to establish a rich infrastructure and founded new cities on Hellenic principles, largely in ...
3 Afghan Paradoxes
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Afghanistan has a long history that is too often characterized by misinformation and myth. Analysts and reporters constantly assert that Afghanistan is a place that no one has ever conquered and whose people have never been successfully governed. It is the graveyard of empires and a land of endemic insurgencies. In reality, all such generalizations are false. Until 1840, Afghanistan was better described as a highway of conquest that was ...
4 America’s Longest War
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“When you are in a hole and want to get out, stop digging,” the saying goes. The history of US strategy in Afghanistan, after the fall of the Taliban, is largely one of digging a deeper hole. The brilliant initial success that resulted in the collapse of the Taliban regime and pushed al-Qaeda into hiding was followed by eight years of inept policy and strategy. As a result, operations on the ground could not produce ...
Part II: Strategic Alternatives
5 A Case for Withdrawal
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If Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency signified anything for American soldiers, it was this: There would be no rest for the weary. As a candidate, Obama had vowed to wind down the Iraq War. Once installed in the Oval Office he endeavored to make good on that promise. Yet hard on the heels of Iraq came Afghanistan—again. ...
6 A Case for Staying the Course
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America has enduring, vital national interests in South Asia that can only be secured in current circumstances by the implementation of a successful comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. The failure or abandonment of that strategy would do serious harm to American security interests globally. The strategies and approaches that are proposed as alternatives, or as mitigations, offer little ...
7 Afghanistan: A Third Way
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What follows is based on the presumption that the attempt to transform Afghanistan into a pluralist democracy (peaceful at home yet strong enough to keep the agents of Pakistan’s institutionalized extremism at bay) has been a quixotic venture of very great cost in blood, treasure, and reputation, sustained against daily evidence of its impossibility by the ignorant arrogance of “counterinsurgency” theorists in and out of uniform. ...
8 Beyond Victory and Defeat
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The outcome of the war in Afghanistan will likely resemble neither victory nor defeat. Eliminating the prospect of an outright “victory” would recognize the inability of the United States to do all of the following: neutralize the Taliban, create a sustainable Afghan national government, develop a viable Afghan economy, and tamp down regional instability. Conversely, outright military defeat is also avoidable, as the political ...
Part III: Other Perspectives
9 The Ethics of Exit: Moral Obligation in the Afghan Endgame
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Over the past decade, just war theory has been extended to include a new category: postwar justice, or jus post bellum. In its most ambitious formulations, jus post bellum requires victorious nations to meet demanding and expensive duties before they can ethically disengage from a postwar situation. This would highly constrain NATO, for example, as it winds down the occupation force in Afghanistan. Against this view, what follows will argue that postwar justice ...
10 Shaping Strategic Communication
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The mission of strategic communication, as presented here, is to convey purpose and to establish the moral legitimacy of that purpose in the eyes of those with whom one is trying to achieve it, that is, with those whose support is needed to fulfill one’s purpose. The extent to which legitimacy is gained is the extent to which military force will not have to be used to achieve the goal. If the purpose is conceded, then the means can be peaceful. As Sun Tzu said, the ultimate victory is winning without ...
11 Civil and Uncivil Society
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Civil and uncivil society networks will play integral roles in shaping the future of Afghanistan. Civil society is represented by the general population, civilian government workers, private contractors, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Uncivil society is comprised of warlords, illicit goods traffickers, and corrupt leaders. However, even these broad definitions have a Western slant. Is civil inherently ...
Part IV: Conclusion
12 Conclusion: Assessing the Strategic Alternatives
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Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, whose military victories in the 1860s and 1870s did so much to make modern Germany, is perhaps best remembered for his insight that “no plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter.”1 Yet, for all the wide acceptance of this aphorism by soldiers and statesmen around the world, set “plans of operations” have all too often been adhered to in wartime long after being overtaken by events. ...
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Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 4 figures
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: South Asia in World Affairs series