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Research Report

Stabilizing Afghanistan:: Proposals for Improving Security, Governance, and Aid/Economic Development

Tobias Ellwood
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2013
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 34
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 2-2)
    James L. Jones Jr.

    Tobias Ellwood is, without a doubt, one of the premier experts on Afghanistan and the surrounding region. He has spent several years both witnessing on the ground and also studying the complicated route taken by NATO in trying to forge a successful outcome to an intervention that has now taken a decade’s worth of resources and human sacrifice by all participating countries.

    His report suggests, quite accurately, that by failing to adequately address the fundamental truth that stability in Afghanistan has always been dependent on the proper balanced effort between security, economic development, and governance and the rule of law,...

  2. (pp. 5-6)

    By any measure the new NATO Training Mission—Afghanistan (NTM-A) strategy has been impressive, pumping recruits through the eightweek program on an industrial scale. The standard is not high, and desertion rates hover around 30 percent.⁴ But training is ahead of schedule with the ANA numbering over 187,000⁵ and the ANP over 149,000.⁶ Of the 148 Kandaks (battalions), less than half could be termed as ‘capable of independent operations.’ The expedited pace of handover has seen the number of ISAF fatalities drop to just 400 in 2012 (the lowest in four years), but Afghan fatalities have increased to more than...

  3. (pp. 7-9)

    Although cautious optimism continues to be expressed about the security mission, the same cannot be said about the political mission. Until a similar revolution takes place, which harnesses the improved understanding of the country to update a poorly designed constitution, stability in both Afghanistan and the wider region cannot be guaranteed. In the words of the UK’s Development Committee, ‘Despite ISAF’s presence and the significant international support, the control of the Afghan Government is tenuous.’10

    The absence of a robust governance strategy means few can agree where Afghanistan is heading, and consequently there is little confidence in investing in its...

  4. (pp. 10-12)

    With the 2014 deadline for withdrawal of International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) combat troops now confirmed, the time to introduce any significant political changes is running out. As the previous chapter illustrates, a workable political strategy offers the Taliban little incentive to integrate. It sees the regime as corrupt and inferior to the pre-9/11 model. The offering needs to change and reconciliation needs to be more sincere and multidimensional.

    The organization, impact, and influence of the Taliban is often overstated by the international media and underestimated by politicians. Wherever the truth lies, this insurgent force remains a spoiler for...

  5. (pp. 13-15)

    The concern over Afghanistan’s relationships with its neighbors is every bit as sensitive as those relationships between groupings inside the country. Analysis of these relationships shows how Afghanistan’s instability is rippling well beyond its own borders. Any radical overhaul of political strategy would therefore require the endorsement of these same countries. As things stand, the current lack of political clarity prevents these countries from designing long-term (mutually supportive) strategies.

    Conscious of the looming 2014 deadline, Karzai is making sustained efforts to strengthen alliances with Iran, China, and Russia (including military cooperation), so as to reduce dependence on the US. Moscow...

  6. (pp. 16-19)

    Four decades of war and turbulence means Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a third of its population surviving on less than $1 a day. 71 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP is funded externally, and the economy is reliant on international effort to directly fund Afghanistan’s political, security, and economic programs. Taxes raise $1.3 billion now with GDP at just over $15 billion.19

    An improved plan for growth is critical. The World Bank is predicting a rapid decline in Afghanistan’s economic prospects as international interests and attention soon shift elsewhere. There is an urgent need for...

  7. (pp. 20-22)

    The international community’s financial commitment to assisting Afghanistan has been exemplary. The bill for security alone since 2001 is estimated at $600 billion and over $40 billion has been donated in development and aid. Considering the uncertainty of Afghanistan’s future twelve years on, international, civilian, and military communities all have serious questions to answer about the lack of progress in the three fundamental pillars of stabilization:

    Security: Why did it take so long to establish a clearer sense of purpose in its mission and to train domestic forces to a standard where they were able to maintain a basic umbrella...

  8. (pp. 23-24)

    As the evidence and commentary in this report imply, there are a number of factors that suggest that if action is not taken, stability in Afghanistan post-ISAF is likely to worsen. However, a compromise solution, for which history shows there is a precedent, is a possibility.

    The question for the West is: do we attempt one last effort or ignore the signs, allow war weariness to get the better of us, and risk having to return on humanitarian grounds in the aftermath of yet another civil war?

    Afghanistan has experienced almost every system of government, including a monarchy, republic, theocracy,...