Finding a solution for Afghanistan
FREISING, Germany — Although there is not a consensus on what it will take to win in Afghanistan, there seems to be agreement that the solution will rely on more than military might alone.
What a more comprehensive approach to success in Afghanistan might encompass, however, is an ongoing debate.
A George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies conference that began Monday has drawn more than 180 people from 37 countries and organizations to discuss how to apply the full range of military and civilian capabilities to bring peace, stability and reconstruction to so-called “challenged states.”
“So how does the international community address these issues when there is no single model for success?” John Rose, director of the Marshall Center, asked in opening remarks.
Ambassador Martin Erdmann, NATO’s assistant secretary-general for political affairs and security policy, was the first to attempt an answer.
“We understood that the threat of military force and even its use is not enough on its own to guarantee our security,” said Erdmann, who is helping to develop NATO’s comprehensive war strategy. Because NATO’s new strategy is in its infant stages, Erdmann said, his comments were his own views and not necessarily the views of NATO.
However, the comprehensive approach Erdmann envisions will rely on closer engagement with non-NATO nations and promote a new level of cooperation among international organizations.
“More and more countries realize that we all face the same risks and threats and that it’s in our mutual interest that we face them together,” Erdmann said.
When asked why a comprehensive approach, which all the speakers seemed to agree offered the best chance for success in Afghanistan, hadn’t been developed sooner, Erdmann said he didn’t think anyone had the requisite experience before now to develop one.
“There was, after 9/11, no blueprint for any nation [on] how to deal with asymmetric threats and asymmetric warfare. We had to collect the experience over time, and we have done so I think very [impressively],” he said.
If the insurgency in Afghanistan follows the path past insurgencies took, NATO and other players in Afghanistan could have a lot more time to continue learning, according to Hekmat Karzai’s calculations.
“Successful counterinsurgencies take about 14 years,” said Karzai, a close relative of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and director of the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul, citing a study by the Rand Corp. “And successful insurgencies take about 11 years,” he added.
Because of this information, he said, it will be important for the people of Afghanistan and the international community to manage their expectations.
“Sorry to mess up the expectations of those who think the situation in Afghanistan will be resolved within the next year or two.”
“The key issue ... is how long do we have, and I would argue we haven’t got forever,” said Gen. David Richards, former International Security Assistance Force commander.
People in Afghanistan are rightfully thinking about their future and their children’s futures, Richards said. “We need to deliver on their expectations a little more quickly.”
The military has been working in concert with civilian agencies in the country, he said, “but we can always do better.”