"No Alternative"-Guest Blog @ New York Times

"No Alternative"

The New York Times, By Dr. Kim Kagan and Dr. Fred Kagan

September 21, 2009


ISW President Kim Kagan and American Enterprise Institute's Director of Critical Threats Project Fred Kagan brought their recommendations for Afghanistan force requirements to The New York Times' Room for Debate Blog.


"President Obama identified a number of questions that must be answered before he can make a considered decision about whether or not to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. The assessment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal answers those questions. The assessment does not provide an estimate of the forces actually required, which is to be submitted in a later document.

Americans need to have a detailed explanation as soon as possible of what forces are needed, how they might be used, and why there is no alternative to pursuing the counter-insurgency strategy that General McChrystal proposes if we are to achieve the fundamental objectives President Obama announced in his March 27 speech, namely “…to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

Achieving the president’s objectives requires recognizing that the conflict in Afghanistan is an insurgency in which the Taliban is competing with the Karzai government and with international forces for control of the country, for the support of the people, and for legitimacy that comes with both of those achievements.

The flaws of the Aug. 20 election increase the requirement for additional forces rather than decreasing it because, not surprisingly, these flaws facilitate the Taliban’s propaganda. Mullah Omar’s Eid al Fitr sermon (available from the SITE Intelligence Group and worth reading in its entirety) shows that the Taliban (which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) is trying to position itself as the legitimate government in Afghanistan:

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has distinctive and useful plans for the future of Afghanistan under the shade of the just social system of Islam after the withdrawal of the foreign forces. They include rehabilitation of social and economic infrastructure, advancement and development of the educational sector, industrializations of the country and development of agriculture.”

Refusing to send additional forces because of the electoral flaws strengthens the perception that the Afghan government is illegitimate. General McChrystal’s assessment, on the other hand, offers many possible ways of addressing the crisis of popular confidence in the government — which the assessment places on a par with the insurgency as one of the “two principal threats” to the success of our endeavors. The assessment was evidently based on the assumption that the election process would not legitimize the government of Afghanistan. It recognized that the legitimacy — and stability — of the Afghan state will depend more on the behavior of its government than on the elections themselves."

To read the rest of this article, please visit The New York Times Room For Debate Blog.