President Barack Obama has announced that he will be sending 17,000 more American troops to southern Afghanistan. They will join the current US Afghan-wide deployment of 33,000 servicemen and 30,000 other troops from NATO allies. The troop announcement came before the completion of a sixty day review of policy in the nation.
Frederick W Kagan wrote for National Review, setting out nine principles for victory in Afghanistan. They are summarised below:
- Understanding our interests. Afghanistan may not currently be a sanctuary for al-Qaeda but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it. Without stability in Afghanistan there will be no stability in Pakistan's border regions.
- Understanding our goals. Our aim is not to create paradise but to support a representative government in Kabul that can control the nation's centrifugal forces.
- Differentiating between temporary and irreconcilable enemies. Some enemies are determined to turn Afghanistan back to Taliban domination and need to be defeated but many groups that call themselves 'Taliban' are more motivated by their opposition to the central regime and its many corrupt local appointees. Those groups can be part of the solution if they are given the opportunity to become part of local governance.
- Committing to stay the course. The consensus in large parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan is that America and its allies won't stay the course; "Islamists point to our retreat following the Marine-barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, the “Blackhawk Down” incident in 1993, our abandonment of Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989, and our abandonment of Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis to Saddam Hussein’s retribution in 1991 and 1992." Only when the US surged troops into Iraq in early 2007 did local communities have the confidence to turn themselves against the extremists in the knowledge that they were unlikely to risk retribution from them.
- Counter-terrorism needs popular support. Not all lessons from Iraq are transferable to Afghanistan but the most important lesson is. Throughout 2006 US Special Forces killed many terrorists but there was little overall progress because most Iraqis did not feel safe and harboured terrorists or feared the consequences of turning against them. Terrorism will only be defeated when local populations feel safe and see socioeconomic progress.
- Troops need to be in the right place. Most of the insurgency is outside of the urban areas. Troops need to be deployed more carefully than in Iraq.
- Outside troops often need to do the most difficult work. Both because they are better equipped for it but also so that resentment of difficult work is not attached to Afghanistan's emerging army and police.
- A good plan. The current US military operation does not have enough senior officers to coordinate a plan for Afghanistan. As part of the review now underway requires "a significant augmentation" of General McKiernan's staff.
- No risks with Iraq. There must be no switching of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan that would risk the considerable progress there. US progress depends upon the credibility of operations in Iraq and a reputation for finishing tasks well.