Afghanistan: The Path to Transition and Beyond

Afghanistan: The Path to Transition and Beyond

  • 3 May 2011

This summer marks a turning point in the decade-long US-led international military–political campaign in Afghanistan. In July, Afghanistan will begin taking over security responsibility for important population centers under a shared NATO–Afghanistan transition plan, to be completed by 2014. This initial handover coincides with the start of the planned drawdown of US military forces in Afghanistan following a military surge that added 30,000 US troops last year to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and build the Afghan government’s capacity.

These two major events mark the beginning of a new approach to the complex stabilization effort in Afghanistan. However, progress cannot be measured merely by the number of provinces handed over to Afghan control, or the extent of the withdrawal of foreign troops over the next three years; there are other variables that influence the situation in Afghanistan and the region.

he new roadmap for transition in Afghanistan adopted at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010 also includes institutional enhancement of Afghanistan’s national security capacity and support for the Afghan government’s national reconciliation plan. However, no amount of military power – foreign or domestic – in Afghanistan will produce adequate gains unless the Afghan government improves its capacity to control its territory, win the trust of the people, and prevent infiltration and subversion from abroad. Therefore, a full security transition in 2014 is not a guarantee for peace and stability in Afghanistan, nor does a peace deal with the Taliban by itself promise sustainable peace in the region.

Sustainable peace in Afghanistan can be achieved only through the establishment of an “end state” that is both acceptable to the Afghan people and does not undermine the legitimate security interests of other actors in the region and beyond. This necessitates addressing legitimate national, regional and international concerns emanating from the Afghan situation. The key to achieving this goal is an integrated strategy that combines military strategy with political and development strategies. A political strategy of negotiation should not be seen as an alternative approach but rather as a complementary effort. A political strategy should address the root causes of conflict and drivers of insecurity, including the state structure, governance and economic development that contribute to sustainable peace. The military strategy should play a supporting role to create the space for the political strategy to operate effectively.

In developing such strategies, Afghan society must be mobilized in pursuit of what its population aspires to, instead of what a supply-driven assistance program imposes upon it. The success of such a strategy depends on resources, sound Afghan leadership, coordinated international partnership, and, most importantly, time. Given local and regional political and security dynamics, the transition process will be multi-dimensional, complex, and nonlinear.

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Tuesday 3 May 2011

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Tuesday 3 May 2011

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