Wasteful War Strategy Persists
The U.S. is looking to shift its military strategy in Afghanistan, moving from a combat role to training and advising the Afghan security forces. The Wall Street Journal reports that the shift could be implemented next year.
Despite being billed as a changed strategy, this move is really just a clarification of the current strategy. The U.S. plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, letting Afghan security forces take the lead role for ongoing counterinsurgency operations.
If the transition from U.S. and allied forces to local forces begins next year, some of the 66,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan may be withdrawn earlier. If the transition is undertaken closer to the 2014 deadline, some troops may stay longer.
The “shift” in the U.S. strategy is less a shift than a hint at the drawdown timeline for the next two years. An accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops would be good first step, but it falls short of what is needed: a reevaluation of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
The current strategy relies on a heavy military footprint today and the capabilities of the Afghan security forces tomorrow. But reliance on military force hasn’t solved Afghanistan’s security problems. In fact, there is clear evidence that increasing troop levels actually contributes to an increase in the number of insurgent attacks.
As for the second piece of the strategy — the Afghan security forces, which are supposed take the lead in 2014 — U.S. training efforts seem to have fallen short. Congress has allocated over $50 billion in security aid to Afghanistan since 2002. The funds support programs to train and equip local Afghan forces.
Despite the billions invested in Afghanistan’s security forces, serious doubts about their capabilities remain. According to a Pentagon report released just last week, only one of the Afghan Army’s 23 brigades can operate without support from the U.S. and allies.
Focusing on the training mission in won’t solve the fundamental problems with the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. After eleven years and more than $500 billion, it’s time for U.S. leaders to eliminate wasteful war spending and develop a strategy that works.