CNAS offers plan to end Afghan war
Published: December 7, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. -- With the White House expected to release its Afghanistan war strategy review next week, one influential Washington think tank with deep ties to national security circles is offering its own plan. Based on the idea that the U.S. will have to care about Afghanistan for a long time, the plan calls for the U.S. to start drawing down forces in January to leave a standing force of 25,000 to 35,000 Americans by 2014.
The Center for a New American Security's Lt. Gen. David Barno, retired former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Fellow Andrew Exum have penned a 44-page review of the landscape that they say offers a "responsible transition." They call for the U.S. to shrink its military presence "from a large-scale and resource-intensive counterinsurgency campaign to the more sustainable U.S. and allied presence" required to hold its gains.
"In an era of shifting threats and fewer resources, the large-scale military and financial commitment to fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan while al-Qaida finds shelter in Pakistan no longer passes the 'common sense test' for many Americans," write Barno and Exum.
The plan calls for a drawdown of NATO forces starting in January 2011, followed by U.S. forces starting after July 2011. It rejects the extreme options of a total rapid withdrawal -- which would show lack of U.S. resolve and leave intelligence networks unprotected -- or of a reduction to a small counterterrorism-only force of less than 10,000, which the report says would leave Afghan forces untrained and vulnerable to future Taliban defeat.
Think tanks often present their own policy and strategy plans for the wars. But CNAS has intimate links to the administration’s top national security circles. The Pentagon’s policy chief, Under Secretary for Defense Michele Flournoy, was CNAS co-founder and president, and Price Floyd, a former CNAS spokesman, was the Pentagon’s highest-ranking public affairs official for a time. (Other connections are listed here.)
The CNAS plan would have the Afghan National Security Forces accept more security responsibilities and take over population-oriented counterinsurgency operations, while the U.S. would maintain control of counterterrorism operations aimed at al-Qaida and others. To that end, U.S. operational headquarters in Afghanistan would transition into a Joint Task Force Irregular Warfare command focused on terrorist and insurgent elements, not all of Afghanistan.
That "residual force" would include 5,000 to 10,000 NATO trainers and six battalions of special operations forces teams representing 20 percent of SOF worldwide.
"In many ways, this will become a SOF-led unconventional conflict – and by 2014, U.S residual forces will be partnered with a much stronger ANSF," CNAS predicts.
You can read the full report here.