7 Pillars for Success in Afghanistan
Coalition tending in Afghanistan has been a busy job for years and will continue to be a challenge for maintaining military and aid contributions from others. Partners are watching for signs of U.S. commitment and the prospects of progress in Afghanistan. Washington will want to mobilize regional and partner support for engendering a more constructive role by Pakistan, for promoting the above mentioned pathway for reconciliation, and for any steps which can enhance regional economic connectivity to bolster Afghanistan’s (and Pakistan’s) economy. In addition to European and Japanese partners, the list of key actors will include Pakistan’s regional rival India, China, Russia and the Gulf States (who’s reported funding of the Taliban has long been a source of concern). Iran, that seems to have begun to play a more troublesome role, can be added to that list as well. While the Trump administration has criticized the overuse of special envoys, this process will require someone who can manage international partnerships, work on potential openings for reconciliation, guide the approach to Pakistan and coordinate policy in Washington. Whether a special ambassador or a regional assistant secretary, a respected senior official will need to work full time job to help guide this process.
An Agile Washington Policy Process
Getting this part of the equation right is vital. The Obama administration was criticized for micromanaging policy from the NSC and setting deadlines which undermined the prospects for success in Afghanistan. The Bush administration neglected Afghanistan as it focused on Iraq. For success, Washington needs a responsive, well-coordinated and real time policy process that links Washington, Kabul, Islamabad and others and can fluidly agree on and provide the kind of decisions and resource support needed. If this is not done well, the harm can be immense. A transparent and credible process for briefing Congress and the public is needed as well, with the aim of maintaining support for U.S. involvement.
Managing all of these pillars in an Afghanistan policy will be complicated, but such a comprehensive strategy will greatly enhance the chances for success in preventing Afghanistan again from becoming a base of terrorists to operate internationally.
Earl Anthony Wayne served in the U.S. Diplomatic Service for some forty years, reaching the rank of Career Ambassador. He held senior positions in Afghanistan from 2009–11. He is currently a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, among other positions.
Image: Security force member stands over a military car before leaving the site of a suicide attack followed by a clash between Afghan forces and insurgents after an attack on Iraq embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani