Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The War and the Election in Afghanistan by US and UK Experts

Prior to the presidential election on August 20, the Brookings Institution has released special issues on Afghanistan. In the above videos, Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, talks some key points of the war and the election. He says that the Taliban is extremely strong at present. Riedel insists that the coalition can win the war through rebuilding Afghan security forces to contain, not eliminate Taliban forces. Quite importantly, Riedel points out that “the race is competitive this time, which makes the result of this election more legitimate than that of previous one." The legitimacy of the elected government is critical for the HOPE OF THE CHANGE in this war, Riedel says. Finally, Riedel argues that the United States is the only actor to intermediate mutual distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan, regarding Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistani territory.

The above video comments are concise and insightful. In Iraq, successful election and legitimate government discouraged terrorists. This election is a turning point in Afghanistan as well. Furthermore, I would like to mention two articles.

Jeremy Shapiro, Director of Studies at the Brookings Institution, says that the success of this election is a matter of domestic politics in the United States and Europe as well. American and European governments send troops to promote the value of democracy, and good achievements will enhance their domestic and international grounds (“The 2009 Afghan Elections and the Future of the International Community in Afghanistan”; Brookings Research and Commentary; August 13, 2009).

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Fellow at the Brookings Institution, warns that the United States and NATO allies not give interventionist impression to Afghan people, and respect self-motivated initiatives by Afghan leaders and citizens (“The 2009 Afghanistan Elections and the Future of Governance”; Brookings Research and Commentaries; August 13, 2009).

As the election is coming, Taliban attack is getting intensified. As I mentioned in a previous post, recent sharp rise in the number of casualties is a controversial issue in Britain. In face of bitter criticism to the Afghan policy, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the war is winnable. Ainsworth stressed that the British forces are making progress to defeat the Taliban and help Afghanistan protect their country on their own.

The British forces started the Operation Panther’s Claw in June this year for intensive offense against the Taliban in Helmand province. Since then, the number of casualties soared dramatically, as shown in the table below.

Source: BBC

General Sir Richard Dannatt who is leaving Afghanistan, articulated that good governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan would secure the British public in the end, and appealed morale support for this war despite current difficulties (“Ainsworth defends Afghan mission”; BBC News; 17 August 2009).

The incoming head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards refuted the rumor of a 40 year stay of UK forces in Afghanistan, and defended the Defence Secretary, regarding war objectives (“General Sir David Richards backs Bob Ainsworth on Afghanistan time frame”; Times; August 17, 2009).

Shortly after the election, General Stanley McChrystal of the US Army will address a strategy assessment as the head of the coalition (“RPT-Obama to seek to rally support for Afghan war effort”; Reuters; August 17, 2009). This election is a landmark for the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban and Al Qaeda will not disappear immediately, even though the election succeeds. The post-election assessment by General McChrystal is a must to read, in order to understand the prospects of the War on Terror.