NATO Agreement Will Undermine Peace
By Matt Southworth on 05/25/2012 @ 02:00 PM
The recent agreement reached on Afghanistan by NATO allies in Chicago is likely to undermine peace and stability in that country and the region.
The U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement signed earlier this month and now endorsed by NATO will not lead to positive outcomes in Afghanistan. The agreement is a hollow shell that come 2014 will pit an internationally-backed Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) against an Afghan-born insurgency that has historically risen to resist foreign intervention. This agreement will undermine efforts toward a long-term partnership that would solve the underlying conflicts in the country and region. I also fear it will lead to a full-scale abandonment of Afghanistan as U.S. political will to support billions in spending fades in coming years.
Before dignitaries from around the world met in Chicago on May 20, Congress had a chance to weigh in on U.S.-Afghanistan policy as the House considered the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In recent years, support for anti-war, Afghanistan-related amendments to the NDAA has grown as the popularity of the war has faded to record lows.
This year, Reps. Jim McGovern (MA) and Walter Jones (NC) planned to offer an amendment that called on President Obama to expedite the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as they have done for the past three years. The duo was joined by House Armed Service Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA) as well as House Minority Leadership.
Plans to offer that amendment, however, were thwarted by House Majority Leadership according to CNN. House Majority Leadership feared that the amendment might pass, as it was similar to a measure that won 204 votes last year. The House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. David Dreier (CA), refused to allow the amendment “in order”, meaning it could not be considered on the House Floor. As a form of protest, Rep. McGovern, also a member of the Rules Committee who headlined the amendment, requested a roll call vote on every single amendment, amid personal attacks by other members of the committee.
There was a last ditch effort by way of a procedural vote to ensure the House considered the amendment — a “no” vote on the “previous question” before beginning debate on the NDAA would have made the amendment “in order”— but the effort failed largely along party lines. One can only infer that congressional leadership is completely out of touch with the 78% of Americans who favor a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Here is the bottom line: the U.S. plans to continue fighting in Afghanistan for at least the next two years, if not three, before “transitioning” full control—of the fighting, mainly—to Afghan forces. At that time, the U.S. will merely shift the entity that is implementing failed military tactics.. Then fighting will continue to whatever degree “necessary” to prevent al Qaeda “safe havens” from returning to Afghanistan. Of course, this defies good sense since al Qaeda can operate from virtually anywhere.
I do not believe this strategy will lead to the dismantlement of al Qaeda, nor the prevention of so-called “safe havens” in Afghanistan—or Pakistan. The more likely outcome is the fighting will radicalize more people and create greater instability within Afghan society. Moreover, the amount of suffering of the innocent people affected by this utterly senseless war, those who flee the conflict and those who choose to join it will be immeasurable.
The U.S. could do several things now to avoid this fate.
First, the U.S. should end offensive military operations and begin an expedited withdrawal of U.S. forces. U.S. soldiers can play no role in solving Afghan political problems.
Second, the U.S. should dial back the strategy of building up the ANSF, since Afghans can’t sustain it and its legitimacy in Afghan society is questionable. An international peacekeeping presence, perhaps led by Turkey, could fill the power vacuum and would be more legitimate in the eyes of many Afghans than either the U.S. military or ANSF.
Lastly, the international community should work to ensure that the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan are as free and fair as possible. Elections aren’t necessarily the only or best path to representative government, but it is without question that corrupt elections do not serve to better society. Afghan-led processes and culturally Afghan-based governing structures will eventually win the day in Afghanistan. This process can begin with a legitimate government in the post U.S.-Karzai era.
Short of serious policy reforms—perhaps even after the 2012 elections—it is very difficult to imagine a positive outcome for either the U.S. or Afghanistan over the next several years. More likely, the U.S. would undermine its own efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and the region by moving forward with the current military strategy that has proven unsuccessful. But with a withdrawal of troops and a focus on a political solution, there may be hope.