President Barack Obama’s five-point plan for turning the war back to the Afghans is designed to cover the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces and “forge a just and lasting peace.” What does the plan involve, and can it work?
Here are the five points:
1. Making Afghans responsible for their own security within two years
2. Training and operationalizing a 352,000-man Afghan security force
3. An enduring partnership with the United States providing training and counter-insurgency guidance
4. Pursuing a negotiated peace with the Taliban
5. Building a global consensus for peace
Afghanization—the practical consequence of the withdrawal of American forces—requires the strengthening of the Afghan military to withstand the Taliban. Elements fundamental to its success involve improving and modernizing the Afghan military, pacifying rural areas, strengthening the national political apparatus, delivering essential services while building a viable economy and, most importantly, ensuring security for the people.
Subsidiary tasks include expanding and improving the police, establishing democratic institutions down to the village level, restructuring the agricultural economy away from opium production, and rooting out the Taliban infrastructure. Given the non-specific nature of goals four and five in the president’s plan, the three essentials of Afghanization are: self-defense, self-government, and self-development.
Neutralizing the Taliban infrastructure is critical to extricating the U.S./NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan for the past decade. In part, this overly long commitment resulted from misjudging the nature of the war from the start, thinking it would be relatively easy to destroy al Qaeda and replace the Taliban government that nurtured and protected the terrorists. What are the obstacles successful Afghanization?
Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.