Small Wars Journal

A Path Forward in Afghanistan

A Path Forward in Afghanistan by Bharath Gopalaswamy - Atlantic Council

One year on, there appears to be little to show for U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan. The administration needs to implement this strategy in a way that creates an opportunity to end the war in Afghanistan while advancing core U.S. interests of defeating terrorism and demonstrating that a moderate Islamic state, aligned with the international community, can succeed.


The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center convened policymakers, analysts, and diplomats to assess the gaps in and imminent challenges facing the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. In a resulting report, “A Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In,” these experts provide some important recommendations to the administration. Here’s a look at those recommendations…

Read on.


Given the New/Reverse Cold War context I often propose (U.S./the West now doing "expansion;" such entities as Russia, China, Iran, the Islamists, etc. -- versus our such effort -- now doing "containment" and "roll back");

Given my such suggestion of this new "conflict environment" (and, herein, noting that Russia, in their such cause, may actually be arming the Taliban now; this, much as the we armed the Muj back in Old Cold War days: );

Given these such matters, should we take issue with "more cooperative" world view suggestions, for example, such as those that are found at Items No. 4 through 6 in our "Path Forward" list provided by the Atlantic Council above?


4)    Regularly review messaging to Pakistan. It is widely recognized that the continued existence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the Taliban leadership to seriously negotiate an end to the conflict. The United States and its international partners must confront Pakistani leaders with a choice about the future of their country that prevents a continuation of the status quo. 

5)    Engage with Afghanistan’s neighbors. Afghanistan’s neighbors need to be assured that a stable Afghanistan will advance, not undermine, their regional interests. In particular, it should be made clear that Afghanistan’s relations with India and Pakistan are not a zero-sum game. Pakistan also needs to be reassured that India will not be permitted to harm its interests in Afghanistan.   

6)    Pursue converging interests with regional rivals. Dealing with the ambivalence of Iran and Russia is both desirable and complicated. Neither country wants Afghanistan to fail, nor do they want to see the return of the Taliban or the growth of ISIS. There is considerable overlap of interests in Afghanistan’s stability, in countering religious extremism, and in battling narcotics. These subjects should be pursued more effectively as Washington and Moscow seek projects on which they can cooperate.


Note:  If the main priority of such entities as Iran, Pakistan, Russia and/or China, etc., is to "contain" and "roll back" U.S./Western power, influence and control -- in what they believe to be their spheres of influence/their necks of the woods -- then should we not consider that our "Path Forward" list above, this may, shall we say, be "built on sand?"  

Herein, the U.S./the West needing to contemplate, in the alternative, that these such regional entities (and/or indeed others) may prefer -- in accordance with their such "contain" and/or "roll back" strategies to -- first and foremost:

a.  Get the U.S./the West OUT of their spheres of influence/their necks of the woods.  And, only thereafter,

b.  Pursue (for example between themselves?) their other, less important, priorities -- this, in Afghanistan and/or elsewhere?

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above: 

a.  Do not discount/do not take your "eye" off the (potential of) a New/Reverse Cold War strategic "ball."  And,

b.  The exceptional requirements and ramifications of same; this,

c.  In determining/basing what you believe should be (in a totally different "conflict environment?") our "Path Forward; this,

d.  As relates to Afghanistan and/or elsewhere?