Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SAM Afghan Edition, Part I (RAND)

There are two good reports on Afghanistan in my feeds this morning. The first is by Dr. Seth Jones from RAND and Georgetown University and contains testimony dated December, 2007 regarding the state of the Afghan insurgency given to Canada's Senate. You can download the full text here. I will try to get the second report out later today.

The assessment is fairly grim in the details but provides some concrete suggestions for the way ahead. Here are some of the highlights (Boldface, notes, italics and hyperlinks are mine):

  • "The evidence I have collected from repeated trips to Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007 indicates that there is an increasingly violent insurgency that threatens the country. It includes a range of insurgent groups, such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network (Note: Operates in the Fata region of Pakistan. For a complete tribal breakdown of the region click here), foreign fighters (including al Qaeda), Hezb-i-Islami, criminal organizations, and some allied tribes and sub-tribes. The overall number of insurgent-initiated attacks increased by 400 percent from 2002 to 2006, and the number of deaths from these attacks increased over 800 percent during the same period."
  • "Provinces that I could drive to only a few months ago, such as Wardak and Lowgar, are now off limits except to those willing to gamble with their lives."
  • "As one senior NATO official told me, NATO and Afghan forces control at most 20 percent of southern Afghanistan. The rest is controlled by Taliban or a range of sub-state groups."
  • "The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan significantly impacts the national security of NATO countries, including Canada. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region is the headquarters of al Qaeda, which is in some ways a more competent international terrorist organization than it was on September 11, 2001."
  • "What explains the insurgency in Afghanistan that now engulfs roughly half the country? 'The answer is simple,” one senior Afghan government official told me in October 2007. 'The people are losing faith in the government. Our security forces cannot protect local villages, and our institutions struggle to deliver basic services.'"
  • "At its core, the insurgency in Afghanistan is not about religion, as some mistakenly believe...In general, the problem is not that most Afghans inherently support the Taliban. It is that patience with the Afghan government is wearing thin...Indeed, the primary challenge in Afghanistan is one of governance."
  • "Perhaps the most basic governance challenge in Afghanistan is security."
  • "Another major challenge is corruption. Afghans have become increasingly frustrated with national and local government officials who are viewed as corrupt and self-serving."
  • "Afghanistan has also faced challenges from outside actors, which have undermined governance. The first is a limited NATO role."
  • "Unfortunately, there are no short-term solutions to Afghanistan’s challenges. Research that the RAND Corporation has done indicates that it takes an average of 14 years for governments to defeat insurgent groups. Many also end in a draw, with neither side winning.Insurgencies can also have long tails: approximately 25 percent of insurgencies won by the government and 11 percent won by insurgents lasted more than 20 years."
  • "This does not mean, however, that Canada or other NATO countries need to – or should – win the insurgency for Afghans. Quite the reverse. While outside actors often play an important role, victory is usually a function of the struggle between the local government and insurgents."
  • "This means that Canada and other NATO countries can be helpful in assisting the Afghan government. Four steps may be helpful."
    • "1. Remove from power and prosecute key individuals involved in corruption and criminal activity, including Afghan government officials."
    • "2. Increase NATO and Afghan National Army resources in the south."
    • "3. Establish a regional approach to Afghanistan, including countering the sanctuary in Pakistan."
    • 4. Establish an institutional arrangement to improve international cooperation.
  • "Afghanistan is not hopeless. To be fair, NATO operations have had mixed success thus far. But the insurgency will ultimately be won or lost in the rural areas of Afghanistan, not in the cities. Success in ending the insurgency will take time and sufficient resources. It would be a tragedy if the naysayers in Canada succeeded in reducing their country’s commitment."

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