Small Wars Journal

An End to the War in Afghanistan

An End to the War in Afghanistan by Jeffrey Stacey - The National Interest

For the first time in history, Afghanistan's neighbors have joint interests in seeing the country become stable.

… Yet several key factors appear to be making some form of ceasefire and/or peace possible, if not necessarily fully probable. First, the Afghan special forces are actually fairly effective. While they do not constitute a large percentage of Afghan forces, they are well trained and well commanded (evidence supplied by the fact that the Taliban never hold large towns or cities for long). Second, most of the country’s thirty-five million people are not just tired of war, but they are expressing their discontent in novel ways. For example, the breakthrough ceasefire in June also coincided with a young-person-led “Peace Caravan” that traveled from Helmand province on foot to Kabul to demand a cessation to the conflict, laying blame for the long war’s continuance directly at the feet of Pakistan, Iran and Russia—the three major funders of the Taliban.

Third, there is fresh evidence that a significant percentage of Taliban commanders and fighters have also grown weary of the carnage (and to a degree disloyal to their feckless and resented leader). Strategy shifts in the Taliban ranks have been the most surprising variable. Not only fighters, but even a modicum of the Taliban’s operational commanders have evinced a newfound propensity toward peace. Some of them have even talked openly of allowing the present configuration of Afghan national institutions to remain largely in place, subject only to their integration into the Afghan military and police forces.

Fourth, the United States and its allies have not only increased their attacks on the Taliban as of late, but it has for the first time in the conflict engaged the Taliban directly at the negotiating table—with Washington also naming a new special envoy for the conflict in the seasoned diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad. The United States had long maintained that it was proper for the Taliban to deal diplomatically only with the Afghan government.

Finally, and perhaps ultimately what may prove most decisive of these factors, the notorious Great Game—in which outside powers have intervened in and jousted over Afghanistan for a century and a half—is proving surprisingly propitious in terms of a rare coinciding of the interests of these countries. Specifically, it appears that the stability of Afghanistan is now squarely in the interests of all of them, including the United States, Europe, Turkey, China, India, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the Gulf countries…

Read on.

Comments

In consideration of my "don't drink the 'stability' cool aid!" argument below, let us consider -- in the alternative --  

a.  Whether the U.S./the West is still in "expansionist" mode: 

"This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over."

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/theresa-may-donald-trump…

b.  Whether Russia, China, Iran, the Taliban, ISIS, etc. --  in consideration of this "sea change" in U.S./Western strategic focus -- can now consider abandoning their "containment" and/or "roll back' strategic objectives. (Find an example of Russia's such -- current -- "containment" and/or "roll back" strategic objective in the quoted item immediately below.)   

"Differing from the previous Tsarist regional empire and the Soviet globalist one, the new Russian foreign policy has a more pragmatic goal. It aims to build different types of buffer zones against NATO encroachment to the West and U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in Central Asia."

http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-battlefield-of-tomorrow-fought… (See the first paragraph under the major heading: "How We Fight: Shape, Deter, Defeat.")

c.  And whether, accordingly, "stability" in Afghanistan may now, indeed, be feasible/be attainable -- this, in the new strategic environment that I have attempted to describe above.

(This such "stability" -- of course and in these exact circumstances -- having to be "bought," at the "cost," of having Afghanistan [etc., etc., etc.?] become organized, ordered and oriented along political, economic, social and value lines OTHER THAN those of the U.S./the West?)

From our article above:

"Finally, and perhaps ultimately what may prove most decisive of these factors, the notorious Great Game—in which outside powers have intervened in and jousted over Afghanistan for a century and a half—is proving surprisingly propitious in terms of a rare coinciding of the interests of these countries. Specifically, it appears that the stability of Afghanistan is now squarely in the interests of all of them, including the United States, Europe, Turkey, China, India, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and the Gulf countries."

Let me argue with this "stability in Afghanistan is now squarely in the interests of these countries" contention.

And let me do this by reflecting -- very briefly -- on (a) the overriding strategic objectives of the great nation opponents during the Old Cold War and on (b) the overriding strategic objectives of the great nation opponents today.

a.  In the Old Cold War, the overriding strategic objective of the Soviets/the communists was "expansion." In response to this, during the Old Cold War, the overriding strategic objective of the U.S./the West was "containment" and/or "roll back" (of the Soviets/the communists' such expansionist efforts and designs.)

(Note here that, during the Old Cold War, "stability," in other states and societies -- definitely -- WAS NOT -- considered to be in the best interests of the U.S./the West; especially if such "stability" was to to be "bought" --  at the "cost" -- of [a] having the Soviets/the communists gain greater power, influence and control in our backyard/our sphere of influence; this, by the Soviets/the communists [b] being allowed to transform other states and societies [for example: in Latin America] more along Soviet/communist political, economic, social and/or value lines.)

b.  In our (reverse?) Cold War era of today, the overriding strategic objective of the U.S./the West has been "expansion."  In response to same, today the overriding strategic objective of Russia, China, Iran, ISIS, etc., has been (interestingly enough, given that "turn about" is certainly "fair play") to "contain" and/or "roll back" U.S./Western such expansionist efforts and designs.

(Note here that, in our current era, "stability," in other states and societies -- IS NOT -- considered to be in the best interests of the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, ISIS, etc.; this, if such "stability" must be "bought" -- at the "cost" --  of [a] having the U.S./the West gain greater power, influence and control in Russia, China, Iran, etc.'s, backyards/in their spheres of influence; this, by the U.S./the West being allowed to [b] transform other states and societies [such as Afghanistan?] more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.)

"Driven by a desire to roll back Western encroachment into the Russian sphere of influence, the current generation of Russian leaders has crafted a multidisciplinary art and science of unconventional warfare. Capitalizing on deception, psychological manipulation, and domination of the information domain, their approach represents a notable threat to Western security."

http://www.jhuapl.edu/ourwork/nsa/papers/ARIS_LittleGreenMen.pdf 

Bottom Line Thought/Question -- Based on the Above:

Don't drink the "stability" argument cool aid!?