Small Wars Journal

In Order for Afghanistan to Succeed, America Must Let it Decentralize

In Order for Afghanistan to Succeed, America Must Let it Decentralize by Ivan Safranchuk and Charles Santos - The National Interest

After spending half a year reviewing America’s Afghan strategy, The Trump administration ended up with nearly the same limited re-intervention plan promoted by the out-going Obama administration. The policy seeks to bolster the Afghan National Army to prevent the insurgency from winning, make another push for good governance to enhance political stability in Kabul and then to reconcile with the Taliban from a position of strength. President Trump’s approach will succeed if it confronts the reasons for the political disorder in Kabul, something Presidents Obama and Bush failed to do.

The reason the Trump administration has to send more troops to Afghanistan is that the Obama administration erroneously believed that it could use the Afghan presidential elections of 2014 to re-establish political legitimacy and a reliable partner in Kabul. Corruption, dysfunction and the political decay of Hamid Karzai’s presidency—promoted by the Bush administration—had strengthened the Taliban insurgency.

The Obama administration believed, as the Bush administration before, that only a strong and legitimate central government and a powerful president could facilitate political stability and economic growth, contain Afghanistan’s fractious ethnonational identities, weaken the Taliban, and enable the Afghan government to stand on its own feet.

Instead, the 2014 Afghan presidential election heightened ethnic tensions and brought the country to the brink of civil war, avoided only by an American brokered extra-constitutional power-sharing agreement. Many Afghans supported the new arrangement believing it was the beginning of a broader, more equitable, decentralized and inclusive political system…

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