WASHINGTON, November 30—The current strategy of defeating the Taliban is unrealistic and headed swiftly toward an impasse, writes Gilles Dorronsoro in a new report on the war in Afghanistan. Just retaining the areas controlled by the coalition will require significant additional American troops next year, but escalation is politically untenable given the impending departure of European forces and dwindling public support for the war at home.
Dorronsoro argues that the United States should adopt a new strategy before it’s too late. Rather than committing more troops, U.S. leaders need to pursue a political solution to the conflict—including a cease-fire and negotiations with insurgents—to prevent al-Qaeda’s return.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
- Overly optimistic assessments. The U.S. command sees the situation in Afghanistan in excessively positive terms and this jeopardizes its credibility with decision makers and public opinion.
- Unrealistic objectives. American commanders consistently underestimate the Taliban. Given the number of available troops and the lack of cooperation from Pakistan, the coalition cannot defeat the Taliban militarily.
- Irreversible advances. As the Taliban strengthens and the Afghan government weakens, turning over security to the Afghan army is impossible in the near term.
- Escalating troop numbers. Not only will it be impossible to withdraw in the summer of 2011, it will be necessary to send in reinforcements to counter the rise of the insurgency and the progressive withdrawal of European contingents.
- Take the initiative. Time is against the coalition and the Obama administration must push for negotiations with the insurgency and a cease-fire rather than be boxed into dead-end military logic.
"The United States must act quickly," Dorronsoro writes. "Given the rapidly deteriorating security situation, every passing month strengthens the position of the Taliban. A viable exit strategy is still possible, but time is not on America’s side."
Gilles Dorronsoro, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, is an expert on Afghanistan, Turkey, and South Asia. 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. He is the co-founder and editor of South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal and the European Journal of Turkish Studies.
The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region's security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan's internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program's renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia's most critical challenges.
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