Thursday, December 11, 2008
Amid a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, the United States is facing another problem. What if NATO, along with the recently approved 204,000 Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), delivers a significant blow to the Taliban insurgency? If Iraq has taught us anything, it’s that we must think ahead.
It is safe to assume that the American-led NATO forces, along with the ANSF, will dramatically weaken the Taliban insurgency if the proper resources are allocated. But this will mean that the Karzai government in Kabul will need to strike some kind of a deal with moderate insurgents to help absorb them into the political process. Should this become reality, the ANSF will likely become the most respected institution in Afghanistan, but also the most costly.
Many experts have agreed that a stable Afghanistan will require a security force of somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 troops. But unlike Iraq, Afghanistan does not have the natural resources or the economy to be able to afford such a force. While this doesn’t mean abandoning the idea of creating a credible Afghan security force, it does mean that Afghanistan simply does not have the means to support the police state many in the West had envisioned.
This is why a so-called regional solution is so important. America’s policymakers must turn to regional players such as India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Russia and remind them that a Taliban state that harbors al-Qaeda is in no one’s interest. For many reasons, a police state in Afghanistan is not a feasible goal; this is why the U.S. must engage in principled diplomacy with all the region’s players to create an environment where it is practical for the Afghans to eventually fund their own security.