LTG (ret) Dave Barno and Andrew Exum recently released a CNAS report titled "Responsible Transition: Securing U.S. Interests in Afghanistan Beyond 2011." In this report, the two men outline how the US government should move from a heavy counterinsurgency operation that is led by the US military to a counterterrorism operation that supports an Afghan-led counterinsurgency operation in 2014. I'm not going to get into the report itself, other to say that I'm really not that impressed (go read Gulliver's two cents), and that I'll probably lean toward Finel's and Cohen's take. There are few options left to the United States other than to draw down and let the Afghans take over security operations, unless there is a desire by the Repub politicians to dramatically increase US forces and funding in that conflict (since I have no faith in the Dems doing anything positive or negative here).
Interestingly, Mr. Exum has returned from the faraway land of Afghanistan lately and brings back good news and bad news. The good news is that our military intel services are crackerjacks and doing great things. Counterinsurgency is going just swell at the tactical levels, at least. And the special forces guys are working well with the general purpose forces. Always a good thing.
The bad news is that we still don't have an Afghani government that can rule the provinces with any degree of confidence and the Pakistani government still lets the Taliban do pretty much whatever they want. Our government doesn't really focus on this aspect of Afghani "governance", and we're probably going to lose international support as well as that of the Afghani government. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
There was this story about how Karzai appointed a buddy for a governance position, but in 2005, the British military found that he had a little 9-ton heroin problem in his basement. He's gone, but very vocal about how he was framed. And now Karzai thinks the US government is the enemy, not his friend (more mad ranting for public consumption?). There's no indication that Pakistan is addressing its inherent challenges with the Taliban.
I still don't see why anyone would think that there are serious national security interests in Afghanistan, now that al Qaeda is in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and probably Germany. Here's the thing about non-state actors - they don't rely on one state to thrive. They're funny like that. But Very Serious People in Washington DC will disagree and insist we continue spending more than a hundred billion a year on this operation.
My final question. So how long after 2014 will the US government be pouring billions into Afghanistan's
drug lords convoy protection Dubai accounts economy? Is this another $3 billion a year investment like Egypt, Pakistan, and Israel? How many failed states are we going to keep on life support using US billions?