DoD FY 2010 Budget Request Summary Justification (Afghan National Security Forces) — CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IN CENTRAL ASIA — Hazaras: Afghanistan’s Outsiders — UNITY OF COMMAND IN AFGHANISTAN: A FORESAKEN PRINCIPLE OF WAR — Mullen offers a dire assessment — Afghanistan’s Narco War


DoD FY 2010 Budget Request Summary Justification

Afghan National Security Forces


It is the policy of the United States to develop the capabilities of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) to conduct independent counterinsurgency (COIN) operations and establish security throughout Afghanistan.

FY 2010 Request: $7.5B

• Continues building the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police

• Funds the accelerated growth of the Afghan National Army to an end strength of 134,000 soldiers in 2011

• Continues support to man, train, and equip 86,800 Afghan National Police


The Department of Defense requests $7.5 billion to support Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) for FY 2010. This represents an increase of 34 percent above the FY 2009 level of $5.6 billion. The Department also requests Congress continue to provide needed flexibility by appropriating these funds for two-year execution through September 30, 2011.

The FY 2010 budget provides essential resources to maintain the accelerated growth of the Afghan National Army (ANA) force structure to a goal of 134,000 (122,000 trained and 12,000 soldiers in training) by December 2011 and to continue training and supporting the 86,800 Afghan National Police (ANP) force.

The FY 2010 budget provides resources to increase the capability of ANSF combat and police units and associated infrastructure and equipment to reduce and eventually eliminate dependence on Coalition forces.


The FY 2010 OCO budget supports the expanded ANSF with independent capabilities to secure Afghanistan and prevent it from becoming a haven for international terrorism and associated militant extremist movements.

The request continues the acceleration plan initiated with the FY 2009 OCO supplemental, expands training and professionalization of the police force, sustains those forces, and provides equipment and supporting infrastructure.

The ANSF are steadily growing in strength and capability. The FY 2010 Overseas Contingency Operation budget will support growth to approximately 97,000 ANA soldiers (plus 10,000 students) and over 86,800 ANP trained and equipped. Enabling these forces to provide for the security of their own nation is central to the success of OEF and the long-term stability of Afghanistan.

Despite the considerable achievements and growth in international community support since the start of OEF, security threats remain a major impediment to development, and the environment continues to be fluid, demanding continual re­examination of the strategy.

In response to the changing security environment, the Department requested funding to support acceleration of the military force expansion in the FY 2009 OCO supplemental request. The FY 2010 funds will enable the ANA to grow while providing basic and specialized training for the ANP.

Afghan National Army

Building on the FY 2009 OCO request, the FY 2010 OCO budget will provide the expanded ANA with the capacity and capabilities that will allow it to assume the lead for counterinsurgency and internal operations. The FY 2010 OCO request, which supports a larger, more comprehensive and more capable military force, builds on the current success made by the ANA. These soldiers have fought bravely along side U.S. and Coalition forces and have earned the respect of the Afghan people.

Commando Battalions, focused on the counterinsurgency mission, are now part of the Afghanistan planned military force. The Army will now also include combat support units, including engineering units, military intelligence companies, and military police. The FY 2010 OCO request includes funds to increase and sustain these units as well.

Afghan National Police

The revised ANSF program recognized that a more robust police force is required to contribute to the counterinsurgency effort by maintaining security throughout Afghanistan, particularly in areas from which the ANA and international forces have cleared Taliban fighters. The original ANP program focused on a more narrow law enforcement mission, leaving the ANP less capable of addressing a security environment complicated by Taliban, narco-traffickers, and other illegal elements.

In comparison with the ANA, the ANP lagged in progress, due in part to institutional corruption, low literacy rates among recruits, and a history of low pay. The FY 2010 OCO request continues the sustainment and training of the 86,800 person ANP and provides funds to equip the force for operation in a counterinsurgency environment.

The budget will provide vehicles for the Fire Department and Uniform Police and Border Police facilities. The budget continues to provide the ANP with basic and specialized training and supports the Afghanistan Police Protection Force (APPF), a new Ministry of Interior initiative that encourages community security operations intended to marginalize insurgent activities, prevent insurgent attacks, and deny insurgents access to and support from local villages.

To address one of Afghanistan’s key police issues, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) introduced the Focused District Development (FDD) Program, a pilot initiative designed for the critical development requirements of the ANP in each district.

The FDD provides a strong reform program that focuses resources on the district level Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) by providing district police training for an entire unit. The FDD takes into account the need to professionalize the police and eliminate corruption in order to ensure that systems of justice, governance, development, and outreach are in place; contribute to local security; and support a stable, well-respected Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA).

The FDD initiative is complementary to ongoing International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations and will center on the Eastern and Southern regions, with eventual expansion throughout the country.

The CSTC-A also placed increased emphasis on the training and mentoring of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) through the Focused Border Development (FBD), which began in October 2008 and is similar to FDD. The FY 2010 OCO request includes funding for training and mentoring of the ABP, as well as construction of ABP facilities.

Additionally, the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), a specialized unit with tactical gear, improved force protection, and specialized equipment. The ANCOP’s primary role is that of a national quick reaction force for civil emergencies like the May 2006 Kabul riots. The ANCOP also relieve district Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) forces while those forces are reformed and receive training through the FDD process.

Detainee Operations

Funding for Detainee Operations supports the Afghan National Detention Facility at Pol-e-Charki and mentors and organizes, trains, and equips a self-sustaining detainee guard program within the MoD for the detention of Afghan enemy combatants. The FY 2010 OCO funds will be spent on sustainment and training of the guard force.


The GIRoA does not have the financial capability, the experienced security forces, or the infrastructure required to equip, build, and sustain a reliable, effective security force alone. Without U.S. funding, the GIRoA will be unable to counter the increasing threat of a well-armed anti-Coalition militia, Taliban, Al Qaeda, narco-terrorists, and other anti-government elements that threaten the peace and stability of Afghanistan. This is a critical capability to prevent re-emergence of safe havens when the Afghans eventually take full responsibility for security in their country.

Source:  Defense Link



Stephen J. Blank

June 2009

President Obama has outlined a comprehensive strategy for the war in Afghanistan which is now the central front of our campaign against Islamic terrorism.

The strategy strongly connects our prosecution of that war to our policy in Pakistan and internal developments there as a necessary condition of victory. But the strategy has also provided for a new logistics road through Central Asia.

In this monograph, Dr. Stephen Blank argues that a winning strategy in Afghanistan depends as well upon the systematic leveraging of the opportunity provided by that road and a new coordinated nonmilitary approach to Central Asia.

That approach would rely heavily on improved coordination at home and the more effective leveraging of our superior economic power in Central Asia to help stabilize the region so that it provides a secure rear to Afghanistan.

In this fashion we would help Central Asia meet the challenges of extremism, of economic decline due to the global economic crisis, and thus help provide political stability in states that are likely to be challenged by the confluence of those trends.

This timely monograph contributes directly to the debate on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Central Asia in the hope that policymakers will find it informative and useful, and those who may be called upon to implement the policy will be able to do so more effectively.

Specific Recommendations

Specifically, the U.S. Government under President Obama should consider and act upon the following recommendations and policies to facilitate the aforementioned strategic goals of victory in Afghanistan and the enhanced independence of Central Asian states.

First, it must continue the Bush administration’s emphasis upon regional integration of Central Asia with South and East Asia in regard to energy, electricity, and other commodities.

As S. Frederick Starr, Director of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, has written, Clearly defeating the Taliban and destroying Al Qaeda should be a priority.

But these goals are best pursued in the context of a broader and more positive regional purpose. This would be true even if the rise of the SCO and Eurasec [Eurasian Economic Community] did not call for a strategic response from the United States.

Washington should also expand its horizons to foster greater U.S.-European and U.S.-Japanese cooperation in Central Asia so that these states are able to trade more openly with Europe and the United States as well.

In other words, the West should leverage its superior economic power to achieve constructive and jointly conceived strategic objectives. While energy and access to pipelines are the priorities, other goods and services must also be included wherever possible. Greater involvement by the EU and Japan that parallels NATO involvement would therefore contribute to this latter enhancement of existing U.S. policies.

Second, the administration must build upon that foundation and conceive of the road it now seeks to build for logistical purposes to supply U.S. forces as also being a powerful engine for regional economic development and integration.

This aspect of the policy called for here as part of the overall strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan and stabilizing Central Asia must be a multilateral project with as many local and other key partners (NATO, Russia, and China) as possible.

This is because “The more consent America attracts abroad, the greater the practical assistance upon which the country will be able to draw and the more likely that U.S. policy will succeed. If this sometimes elusive condition is met, American strategy should prove sustainable.”

This multilateral support is essential to persuade local participants that U.S. aims are not inimical to their own but rather in sync with them. As Sir Michael Howard wrote in 2003,

American power is indispensable for the preservation of global order, and as such it must be recognized, accommodated, and where possible supported. But if it is to be effective, it needs to be seen and legitimized as such by the international community.

If it is perceived rather as an instrument serving a unilateral conception of national security that amounts to a claim to world domination—pursuing, in fact, a purely “American War against Terror”—that is unlikely to happen.

Third, it must not detach this road from other parts of U.S. policy. Instead the administration should see it as the centerpiece of a coordinated policy and policy actions to integrate existing programs for trade, investment, and infrastructural projects, particularly with regard to water quality and increasing water supplies for all of Central Asia.

This will lay a better foundation for the lasting economic and thus political security of Central Asian states, and indirectly through such support will help their continuing economicpolitical independence and integration with Asia and the global economy.

Fourth, it must, at the same time, reform the interagency process which is universally regarded as broken. We need to pursue security in this region and in individual countries as specified above, namely in a holistic, multidimensional, and integrated way that enhances all the elements of security, not just military security. While we do not espouse any particular course of reform of the interagency process, several points should be made here.

First, the strategy and policy outlined is not purely or mainly military. Second, it therefore optimally should not be led by the U.S. military but include it under civilian leadership as an important, but not dominating, element in that strategy for Central Asia.

While in Afghanistan actual hostilities requiring a military strategy are required, it is also accepted that an important component of our policy and strategy there must be to improve governance and economic conditions for the population.

The overall strategy must shun the previous procedures and lack of integrated planning for both hard and soft power elements that have led to “stovepipe efforts that do not achieve full and efficient results and effects in areas of operations.”

Unfortunately this attribute is pervasive and not only in regard to Afghanistan and Central Asia.Thus, in 2005 Congressman J. Randy Forbes testified to the congressionally mandated U.S.-China Commission that,

At every briefing we attend, no matter how high ranking the participants, we are told that there is no coordinated approach to analyzing the multi-faceted complex nature of the China problem and the communication between agencies is inadequate at best.

This must be remedied as soon as possible. Instead, as one recent paper on the subject of reforming this process notes, if the U.S. system is to address the ever increasing level of complexity in providing security at home and abroad, “indeed if it is to operate as a system at all rather than a collection of separate components—then security reform must stress unity, integration, and inclusion across all levels.”

This new process must take a long-term view of the problems with which it will grapple, especially in the light of our own financial crisis.122 Within that call for reform, there are several common themes in recent works and statements on this subject that emphasize, as well, the need for multilateral support for such programs.

Furthermore, in all our efforts, whether they are regional or within a particular country, experience shows the absolute inescapable necessity that the operation to provide such multidimensional security must be organized along lines of unity of command and unity of effort to succeed.

Whether the format is one of a country team led by the ambassador that pulls all the strings of U.S. programs together or a Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF) is almost a secondary question. The paramount need is for well-conceived plans that can be implemented under the principle of this unity of command leading to a unity of effort.

Fifth, a key component of an expanded, integrated, and holistic approach to security in both Afghanistan and Central Asia must entail a vigorous effort to combat narcotics trafficking.

This is not just because it is a scourge to both Afghanistan and the CIS, but also because it is clear that the Afghan government is either incapable or unwilling to act and is more concerned with blaming others for its deficiencies.

Furthermore, such action will convince Central Asian states and Russia that we take their security concerns seriously and will facilitate their cooperation with our policy and strategy.

Sixth, the administration and NATO should jointly offer Central Asian states an expanded menu of “a la carte” programs for enhancing security, border defense, train and equip programs, interoperability, antinarcotics, and, if possible, combat support roles for Central Asian countries in Afghanistan. “Parallel to this, the United States should enter into 5-year militaryto-military agreements with each country similar to what it has recently renewed with Kazakhstan.”

Doing so would further engage the U.S. military with those forces in Central Asia and provide them with an alternative model to the Russian army’s ways of doing business.

This would also be a visible sign of continuing high U.S. interest in Central Asian countries’ defense and security and of its desire to cooperate with them toward realizing their goals.


Arguably, only on the basis of such an integrated multidimensional and multilateral program can a strategy to secure Central Asia against the ravages of economic crisis and war be built, while we also seek to prosecute the war in Afghanistan in a similarly holistic way.

It has long since been a critical point in U.S. policy for Central Asia that we seek to advance these states’ independence, security, and integration, both at a regional level and with the global economy.

U.S. experts and scholars have also argued for such a perspective. Thus this project could and probably should serve as the centerpiece of a renewed American economic strategy to help Central Asia fight off the Taliban and cope simultaneously with the global economic crisis.

An integrated program of economic and military action in Central Asia is surely called for given the scope of our growing involvement and the stakes involved in a region whose strategic importance is, by all accounts, steadily growing.

Especially as we are now increasing our troop commitment to Afghanistan and building this new supply road, challenge and opportunity are coming together to suggest a more enduring basis for a lasting U.S.contribution to Central Asia’s long-term security.

In effect, the present crisis has brought matters to the point where the United States has obtained a second chance in Central Asia, even as it is becoming more important in world affairs.

It is rare that states get a second chance in world politics. But when the opportunity knocks, somebody should be at home to answer the door.


Born to Hazara parents who escaped to Iran, 12-year-old Fiza and her family have returned to Afghanistan “to be in our own country,” says Amin, her father. Photograph by Steve McCurry

Hazaras: Afghanistan’s Outsiders

The Outsiders

Set apart by geography and beliefs, oppressed by the Taliban, the Hazara people could be Afghanistan’s best hope.

NGO, By Phil Zabriskie

At the heart of Afghanistan is an empty space, a striking absence, where the larger of the colossal Bamian Buddhas once stood. In March 2001 the Taliban fired rockets at the statues for days on end, then planted and detonated explosives inside them. The Buddhas had looked out over Bamian for some 1,500 years. Silk Road traders and missionaries of several faiths came and went. Emissaries of empires passed through—Mongols, Safavids, Moguls, British, Soviets—often leaving bloody footprints. A country called Afghanistan took shape. Regimes rose and collapsed or were overthrown. The statues stood through it all. But the Taliban saw the Buddhas simply as non-Islamic idols, heresies carved in stone. They did not mind being thought brutish. They did not fear further isolation. Destroying the statues was a pious assertion of their brand of faith over history and culture.

It was also a projection of power over the people living under the Buddhas’ gaze: the Hazaras, residents of an isolated region in Afghanistan’s central highlands known as Hazarajat—their heartland, if not entirely by choice. Accounting for up to one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population, Hazaras have long been branded outsiders. They are largely Shiite Muslims in an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country. They have a reputation for industriousness yet work the least desirable jobs. Their Asian features—narrow eyes, flat noses, broad cheeks—have set them apart in a de facto lower caste, reminded so often of their inferiority that some accept it as truth.

The ruling Taliban—mostly fundamentalist Sunni, ethnic Pashtuns—saw Hazaras as infidels, animals, other. They didn’t look the way Afghans should look and didn’t worship the way Muslims should worship. A Taliban saying about Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun ethnic groups went: “Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan, and Hazaras to goristan,” the graveyard. And in fact, when the Buddhas fell, Taliban forces were besieging Hazarajat, burning down villages to render the region uninhabitable. As autumn began, the people of Hazarajat wondered if they’d survive winter. Then came September 11, a tragedy elsewhere that appeared to deliver salvation to the Hazara people.

Six years after the Taliban fell, scars remain in the highlands of the Hazara homeland, but there is a sense of possibility unthinkable a decade ago. Today the region is one of the safest in Afghanistan, mostly free of the poppy fields that dominate other regions. A new political order reigns in Kabul, seat of President Hamid Karzai’s central government. Hazaras have new access to universities, civil service jobs, and other avenues of advancement long denied them. One of the country’s vice presidents is Hazara, as is parliament’s leading vote getter, and a Hazara woman is the first and only female governor in the country. The best-selling American novel The Kite Runner—now a feature film—depicted a fictional Hazara character, and a real Hazara won the first Afghan Star, an American Idol-like program.

As the country struggles to rebuild itself after decades of civil war, many believe that Hazarajat could be a model of what’s possible not just for Hazaras but for all Afghans. But that optimism is tempered by past memories and present frustrations—over roads not built, a resurgent Taliban, and rising tides of Sunni extremism.

A project is now under way to gather thousands of stone fragments and rebuild the Buddhas. Something similar is occurring among Hazaras as they try to repair their fractured past, with one notable difference: There are pictures of the destroyed Buddhas. The Hazaras have no such blueprint, no sense of what a future free from persecution is supposed to look like.

Musa Shafaq wants to live in that future. He is 28, with shoulder-length black hair and typical Hazara features, not unlike those of the Buddhas. He stands at the gate of Kabul University in a red sweater, black jeans, and tinted prescription glasses. Classes are out for the day. In two months, he will graduate, a notable achievement for any Afghan given the country’s instability. Because he is Hazara, his success signals a new era. Shafaq is poised to finish at the top of his class, which should guarantee him the job he most wants, a teaching post at Kabul University.




Unity of Command: Unity of command is best achieved by vesting a single commander with requisite authority.

—Principles of War 1954

This Carlisle Paper discusses the traditional importance of unity of command in American doctrine and practice from World War I until now, and how this principle has been forsaken in the evolution of military command for Afghanistan.

It examines the unprecedented departure from the principle of unity of command in Afghanistan in 2006, when Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan passed control of the ground fight to the International Security Assistance Force, and operations became split between several unified or “supreme” commanders in charge of U.S. Central Command, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and U.S. Special Operations Command.

It argues for a renewal of understanding of the importance of unity of command, and recommends that the United States revert to the application of this principle by amending the Unified Command Plan to invest one “supreme commander” with responsibility for the current Operation ENDURING FREEDOM Joint Operations Area.

In Afghanistan today, want of moral singleness, simplicity, and intensity of purpose harp of military failure. This is attributable to an abrupt departure from a long-standing and distinctly American practice of insisting on unity of command. The United States is the only country where military doctrine recognizes the principle of “unity of command,” and has successfully applied it in multiple alliances and coalitions since 1918.

It was the guiding principle during World War II that convinced Allied powers to invest “supreme command” upon singular operational level commanders in distinct geographic areas. Unity of command was the principle behind the 1946 Unified Command Plan (UCP), which institutionalized the practice of unifying forces under one commander-in-chief.

This paper examines the departure from this principle that occurred in Afghanistan in 2006, when Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan (CFC-A) passed control of the ground fight to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and operations became split between Commander U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Supreme Allied Command.


This Carlisle Paper has discussed the traditional importance of unity of command in U.S. doctrine and practice from World War I until now, and how this principle has been forsaken in the evolution of command construct in Afghanistan. It has argued for a renewal of understanding of the importance of unity of command, and recommends that the United States revert back to application of this principle by amending the UCP and granting responsibility for the current OEF JOA to USEUCOM.

This would see two immediate improvements. First, it would invest SACEUR with the “supreme” authority over operations in Afghanistan that he presently is denied; second, it would make full use of a long-standing alliance to ensure the formulation of strategy and the sustainment of commitment that is obviously missing in the region today.

This realignment would require designation of EUCOM as a supported combatant command, establishing EUCOM/NATO JFLCC and JFACC, the embedding within ISAF HQ the necessary elements to create an integrated subordinate unified command in Kabul, and streamlining the chain of command to have HQ ISAF report directly to SHAPE and SACEUR. To ensure full unity of command, the United States should transfer its counternarcotics and regional engagement functions to the NAC and NATO military council, and consolidate Title 10 and special operations functions under EUCOM.

Failure to address the current problems of unity of command will result in the failure of the alliance—and the coalition—in Afghanistan. The threats posed by the large-scale  and enduring cross-border insurgency, steadily growing opium production, and endemic corruption, are sufficient to defeat our bifurcated military and civilian efforts in that conflicted country. We should heed the words of Eisenhower:

Alliances in the past have often done no more than to name the common foe, and “unity of command” has been a pious aspiration thinly disguising the national jealousies, ambitions and recriminations of high ranking officers, unwilling to subordinate themselves or their forces to a command of different nationality or different service. . . . I was determined, from the first, to do all in my power to make this a truly Allied Force, with real unity of command and centralization of administrative responsibility.

See Complete Report (pdf): Unity of Command in Afghanistan: A Forsaken Principle of War



Top officer offers a dire assessment on Afghanistan

The nation’s top military officer, in a deeply pessimistic assessment of the war in Afghanistan, said yesterday that due to years of neglect the United States is basically “starting over’’ in its battle against the radical Taliban movement and its Al Qaeda allies.

Acknowledging that public support for the war is waning, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the US operation needs “12 to 18 months to turn this thing around.’’ “It is doable, but it is going to take some time,’’ he said, urging Americans to be patient.

But Mullen indicated he believes that, at a minimum, more specialists will be needed to train the Afghan security forces. “We all believe there is going to be a need to accelerate the training of the Afghanistan security forces, army and police, and that is going to take additional trainers,’’ he said

Mullen, who became the nation’s top military officer in October 2007, visited patients at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Jamaica Plain earlier yesterday and plans to speak today at a Harvard Medical School conference about traumatic brain injuries, which have become much more common among combat troops.

He has expressed deepening concern in recent days about the progress of the war in Afghanistan, calling the situation “serious and deteriorating.’’ Yet his comments to Globe reporters and editors suggested outright alarm that without the right combination of cooperation from the Afghan government and the Pakistani military and an even greater US commitment, the Taliban could seize control of Afghanistan again.

“It is much more capable and much more potent than it was back’’ in 2001, he said, when the radical Islamic movement was toppled by the United States and its allies for harboring Al Qaeda. “And it is much broader than it was back then, and much deeper.’’

He also said that the Taliban’s ties to Al Qaeda leaders have been strengthened as the United States has trained its attention on Iraq. “The Taliban is much closer to Al Qaeda than it used to be,’’ Mullen said. “They are much more affiliated with each other than they were a few years ago. Call it a federation.’’

He added that Al Qaeda is “still very focused on trying to advance this corrupt view of Islam as far as they can. And one of the ways they do that is to focus on eliminating and killing as many Americans and Westerners as they can.’’

The US military, however, is behind the curve and struggling to retake control of the situation, Mullen said. For one, the focus on Iraq has meant that there are too few American troops with experience in Afghanistan, requiring precious time for new units to get up to speed upon arriving in the country.

“I’d like to take people who have been to Afghanistan and send them back to leverage the cultural awareness and language awareness, which are critical pieces,’’ Mullen said. “The problem is I don’t have that many because I haven’t had that many in Afghanistan.’’

But Mullen dismissed calls by some specialists that the United States should immediately seek to negotiate with some elements of the Taliban who may be willing to put down their arms in exchange for a political stake in the Afghan government. General David Petraeus, who is overseeing US forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, in recent weeks has also suggested that negotiations with some members of the Taliban could help reduce violence in parts of Afghanistan.

“This is the eighth year, but there is a newness here,’’ Mullen told the Globe yesterday in Boston. “There is a starting again, or starting over. Iraq has been the focus, it hasn’t been Afghanistan.’’

Mullen, however, said he is awaiting a new assessment by the top commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, before making any recommendations on whether more US troops are needed to take on an increasingly emboldened Taliban.

Military commanders on the ground told Richard Holbrooke, the president’s special envoy, during the weekend that the force was not big enough to defeat the Taliban, particularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The United States currently has about 68,000 troops dedicated to the war in Afghanistan, including 21,000 additional forces ordered by Obama earlier this year who are still flowing into the country.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found that 51 percent of Americans now say the war is not worth fighting and only 24 percent support sending more troops. President Obama, in a speech last week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, conceded that the fighting has become more fierce but called Afghanistan “a war of necessity.’’

Mullen’s wide-ranging interview came on a particularly bloody day in Afghanistan. Five car bombs simultaneously hit Kandahar, the country’s largest southern city, killing at least 41 people. And four more US troops were killed by another bomb in southern Afghanistan, bringing the August total to 41 and making this year already the deadliest yet of the war for American forces.

With the intense focus until recently on fighting the war in Iraq – where the United States plans to keep nearly twice as many troops as in Afghanistan until at least early next year – he said that the Tali ban are far more potent than they were during the US invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Taliban’s alliance with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, who he said are hiding in neighboring Pakistan’s lawless border region, is stronger than ever, he said.






AUGUST 10, 2009


At the end of March when President Obama fulfilled his pledge to make the war in Afghanistan a higher priority, he cast the U.S. mission more narrowly than the previous administration: Defeat Al Qaeda and eliminate its safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  To accomplish these twin tasks, however, the President is making a practical commitment to Afghanistan that is far greater than that of his predecessor—more troops, more civilians, and more money. As the American footprint grows, so do the costs. July was the deadliest month yet for American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, and military experts predict more of the same sad trajectory in the coming months.

As part of the military expansion, the administration has assigned U.S. troops a lead role in trying to stop the flow of illicit drug profits that are bankrolling the Taliban and fueling the corruption that undermines the Afghan Government. Tens of millions of drug dollars are helping the Taliban and other insurgent groups buy arms, build deadlier roadside bombs and pay fighters.

The emerging consensus among senior military and civilian officials from the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries operating in Afghanistan is that the broad new counter-insurgency mission is tied inextricably with the new counter-narcotics strategy.  Simply put, they believe the Taliban cannot be defeated and good government cannot be established without cutting off the money generated by Afghanistan’s opium industry, which supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin and generates an estimated $3 billion a year in profits.

The change is dramatic for a military that once ignored the drug trade flourishing in front of its eyes. No longer are U.S. commanders arguing that going after the drug lords is not part of their mandate. In a dramatic illustration of the new policy, major drug traffickers who help finance the insurgency are likely to find themselves in the crosshairs of the military. Some 50 of them are now officially on the target list to be killed or captured.

Simultaneously, the U.S. has set up an intelligence center to analyze the flow of drug money to the Taliban and corrupt Afghan officials, and a task force combining military, intelligence and law enforcement resources from several countries to pursue drug networks linked to the Taliban in southern Afghanistan awaits formal approval.

An equally fundamental change is under way on the civilian side of the counter-narcotics equation. The administration has declared that eradication of poppies, the mainstay of the former administration, is a failure and that the emphasis will shift to promoting alternative crops and building a legal agricultural economy in a country without one for 30 years. This marks the first time the United States has had an agriculture strategy for Afghanistan.

The attempt to cut off the drug money represents a central pillar of counter-insurgency strategy—deny financing to the enemy. This shift is an overdue move that recognizes the central role played by drug traffickers and drug money in the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. While it is too early to judge whether this will be a watershed, it is not too early to raise questions about whether the goals of the counter-narcotics strategy can be achieved.

Is it possible to slow the flow of drug money to the insurgency, particularly in a country where most transactions are conducted in cash and hidden behind an ancient and secretive money transfer system?  Does the U.S. Government have the capacity and the will to provide the hundreds more civilians required to carry out the second step in the counter-narcotics program and transform a poppy-dominated economy into one where legitimate agriculture can thrive?

Can our NATO allies be counted on to step up their contributions on the military and civilian sides at a time when support for the war is waning in most European countries and Canada?  The ability to stop—or at least slow—the money going to the insurgency will play a critical role in determining whether we can carve out the space required to provide the security and economic development necessary to bring a level of stability to Afghanistan that will prevent it from once again being a safe haven for those who plot attacks against the United States and our allies. But counter-narcotics alone will not win the war.

The new strategy is one aspect, albeit an important one, of the administration’s decision to move troops into Afghan villages and shift more resources to building a functioning and legal economy.  The scope of development needed to create jobs, promote alternatives to growing poppy and train Afghan security forces is enormous.  Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is not a reconstruction project—it is a construction project, starting almost from scratch in a country that will probably remain poverty-stricken no matter how much the U.S. and the international community accomplish in the coming years.

The administration has raised the stakes by transforming the Afghan war from a limited intervention into a more ambitious and potentially risky counter-insurgency. This transformation raises its own set of questions. How much can any amount of effort by the United States and its allies transform the politics and society of Afghanistan?

Why is the United States becoming more deeply involved in Afghanistan nearly eight years after the invasion? Does the American public understand and support the sacrifices that will be required to finish the job? Even defining success remains elusive: Is it to build a nation or just to keep the jihadists from using a nation as a sanctuary?

These core questions about commitment and sacrifice can be answered only through a rigorous and informed national debate, sparked by Congress with the support of the administration. The American people need to understand the extent of our country’s involvement in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan and try to reach a consensus to help guide policymakers and the President and his team.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has held a series of public hearings in recent months focusing on the evolving policies toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. In an effort to stimulate a larger debate, the committee plans another round of hearings, beginning soon after Congress returns from the Labor Day recess.

As part of that effort, the committee staff prepared this report examining the new counter-narcotics strategy as a way of evaluating the overall policy being put in place by the administration in Afghanistan. The report examines the counter-narcotics policy and addresses these questions in six chapters, followed by a set of recommendations.


Accepting that Afghanistan requires a greater commitment of U.S. troops and civilians means that the public should understand the sacrifices that will be required in the coming years.

The deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan is conspicuous.  Forty-two American soldiers and Marines died in July, the highest since the start of the war, and the casualties were not just associated with the Marine push into Helmand Province. Coalition troops from Britain, Canada and other NATO allies also suffered their highest death toll since 2001. More powerful improvised explosive devices are appearing and in some cases the Taliban has demonstrated a new ability to launch complex attacks.

The coming months will test the administration’s deepening involvement, its new strategy on counter-narcotics specifically and its counter-insurgency effort in general. Some observers fear that the moment for reversing the tide in Afghanistan has passed and even a narrow victory will remain out of reach, despite the larger American footprint. Others see promise in the commitment of additional resources and the recognition that success requires providing Afghans with the security and assistance that will allow them to find their own way to the future. None of the civilian officials or military officers interviewed in Afghanistan and elsewhere expected substantial progress in the short term. They talked in terms of years—two, five and 10.


1.   Congress and the administration should join in efforts to promote a national debate that will provide the public with a clear understanding of the commitment required in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The debate should articulate the administration’s goals, the costs of meeting these goals and the consequences for failing to do so.

2.   Given the significance of the new counter-narcotics strategy, the administration should provide Congress with a written description of that policy and a clear road map for how it will be integrated with the other components of the counter-insurgency, including the development of alternative crops for Afghan farmers.

3.   As requested by Congress two years ago, the administration should develop a clear system of metrics to assess progress in Afghanistan on counter-narcotics, corruption, security and economic development. These metrics should reflect both quantitative and qualitative indicators and both near-term and long-term goals.

4.   The Department of State should pursue enhanced cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbors to identify and support regional counter-narcotics efforts and better understand the important linkages and flows of drugs, money, and people from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. In particular, Ambassador Holbrooke should lead efforts to travel to Central Asia to strengthen cooperation on Afghanistan and better link U.S. policy towards Central Asia with our strategy in Afghanistan.

5.   Sending more civilians to Afghanistan should be part of the national debate. But as the administration prepares to deploy the additional 450 civilians already committed to going, serious efforts should be made to match civilian expertise in key districts across the country and not just staff up Embassy Kabul or forward operating bases. Efforts should be made to recruit civilians with expertise in agriculture, development, and other technical skills that can be adapted to needs in Afghanistan, including recruiting civilian expertise from Afghanistan’s neighbors, which would be more cost-effective and bring people who know the region, climate, language, and soil.


Related Links

DoD NewsLink: Stavridis: Afghanistan War Challenging, But Winnable

DoD News Link:  DoD Releases Fiscal 2010 Budget Proposal

Times OnLine: Four British soldiers die for sake of 150 votes

Michaelyon-online: Bad Medicine & New Afghan war: Frontline correspondent says fight has morphed – but we still can’t afford to lose

Hot Air: Afghanistan: Obama’s toughest political challenge

Wash Post: Analysts Expect Long-Term, Costly U.S. Campaign in Afghanistan

Huffington Post: ReThinking Charlie Wilson’s War: the Afghan War that Keeps On Taking

Hot Air: Yon: Brits losing Helmand; McChrystal: Need more troops, new strategy