WASHINGTON, Feb 3—After seven years of war, the international community has yet to create the conditions for a sustainable Afghan state and a viable government in Kabul that can survive a U.S. withdrawal. In a new policy brief, Afghanistan expert Gilles Dorronsoro offers an alternative strategy that de-escalates combat, thereby neutralizing insurgency momentum and Taliban appeals for Jihad, while protecting important infrastructure that allows strong and stable Afghan institutions to develop.

Dorronsoro explains that while the current U.S. debate is focused on how many additional troops to send to Afghanistan, increasing the number of troops is unlikely to make a difference without a defined policy and strategy.

Key Recommendations:

  • The main policy objective should be to leave an Afghan government able to survive U.S. and NATO withdrawal. Strategies based on other objectives, like counternarcotics or promoting Western values, are not feasible given the limited resources available to the international presence in Afghanistan.
  • The presence of foreign soldiers is a driving factor in the Taliban’s resurgence. Reducing military confrontations is the best way to weaken the armed opposition.
  • Allocate resources according to three areas: strategic cities and transportation routes that must be under Afghan/alliance control; strategic areas where NATO and the Afghan army can engage insurgents; and opposition territory where NATO and Afghan forces should not expend effort or resources.
  • Withdrawal will allow the United States to focus on the central security problem in the region: al-Qaeda and the instability in Pakistan.

Dorronsoro concludes:

“The Taliban have been able to adapt very quickly to allied tactics. Their learning curve is good, and they have the psychological momentum. The situation in 2009 is probably going to deteriorate, but the results of any increase in troop numbers will be difficult to assess before the summer of 2010. In the event of failure, the U.S. administration will have very few options left, because sending another 30,000 troops would present a political challenge. This is why it is especially important to concentrate attention on areas where the troops can make a real difference (i.e., Kabul and not Helmand), allowing the allies to build sustainable Afghan institutions and eventually withdraw their military forces.”



  • Direct link to the PDF: www.carnegieendowment.org/files/afghan_war-strategy.pdf

  • Gilles Dorronsoro is an expert on Afghanistan and Turkey. His research focuses on security and political development in Afghanistan, particularly the role of the International Security Assistance Force, the necessary steps for a viable government in Kabul, and the conditions necessary for withdrawal scenarios. Previously, Dorronsoro was a professor of political science at the Sorbonne, Paris and the Institute of Political Studies of Rennes. He also served as the scientific coordinator at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • President Obama has inherited a tougher foreign policy inbox than any president has faced since Harry Truman; establishing priorities among dozens of conflicts and crises requires new understanding of the most critical regions, the most salient issues within them, and the issues ripest for new direction. In its series, Foreign Policy for the Next President, the Carnegie Endowment’s experts endeavor to do just that. They separate good ideas from dead ends and go beyond widely agreed goals to describe how to achieve them.
  • The Carnegie South Asia Program offers in-depth expertise on a range of issues relating to South Asia, including nonproliferation, international security, and political and economic development.
  • The Program produces South Asian Perspectives, a monthly publication showcasing selected views and opinions from the South Asian media and policy circles, thus providing a forum for policy makers to hear voices from the region.