What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ECFR's Afghanistan paper, out since January

There's a new paper out from the Europan Council on Foreign Relations (pdf), a relatively new, European think tank, and it joins the steady stream of similar, fresh reports on Afghanistan in calling for a major shift in terms of commitment to the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
One of its most important suggestions sounds like this:
" This paper advocates a new strategy, based on a ‘grand bargain’ between the United States and Europe. EU countries should commit to sending more troops, trainers and civilians to Afghanistan, as well as lifting all remaining “caveats” which hamper their soldiers’ effectiveness. The EU must also reverse the decline in reconstruction funding. Monies should be spent at grass roots level through the PRTs and in support of provincial governments and the reconciliation effort with the Taliban. In exchange, the US must fully accept and implement a shift from a strategy based on combat operations to one focused on protecting the lives of Afghan civilians, on abandoning the current counter-narcotics policy... "
I have to say that this scheme of a grand bargain seems to me to be a little flawed. It seems to way underestimate the U.S.' learning performance in COIN (much experience with which most European countries simply can't claim for themselves), and there's also a disregard of the fact, that the casualty-aversion behind all the close air support (CAS), required by troops on the ground, is the most significant in the case of European troops. Who actually calls for CAS, and how often, itself can't give that much of a clue as an indicator, as the current division of labour puts U.S. forces in the role of carrying out most of the more aggressive disruption operations, which are necessary, and whereby some CAS may always be needed. But the rest of the grand bargain, as much as it remains a "bargain," is about fine with me. Europe needs to do more.
To underscore that, here's an excerpt from Daniel Korski's paper, quoting a study by RAND that I haven't yet read.
" According to RAND, the US is spending “seven times the resources to counter-narcotics activities provided by the United Kingdom (the lead nation for counter-narcotics), nearly 50 times the resources to the police provided by Germany (the lead nation for police reform), and virtually everything for training the Afghan military (for which the United States was responsible)” "
It's always a good thing about ECFR's papers that they name names. They list which European country does what. Just like back in their comprehensive "power audit" of European-Russian relations. So instead of just zeroing in on Germany alone, you have a list of countries that don't do all that much.
" • Belgium, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden have made significant contributions but could do better. Sweden, for example, has only deployed 0.7% of its total military.
• Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal have made minimal deployments well below their capabilities. Finland has deployed only 85 soldiers to ISAF out of a total strength of 34,700. Austria, perhaps the greatest laggard, has deployed a mere 3 soldiers, while Luxembourg only 9. "
But still let's not forget about Germany entirely, of course.
The paper proposes that some of the European troops that can't be sent to the south at the moment, should instead move to the east, to free up U.S. soldiers for operations in the south. It says: "European governments should agree to lift operational restrictions on existing deployments and move troops to the now quieter east, allowing the US to transfer forces to the south in aid of the British, Canadians, and Dutch." I must say that even if in the east things are so much better nowadays, although there are casualties taken in those areas even these days, one has to see if this remains so after the snow melts and depending on developments in Pakistan (where the TTP is busy fighting Pakistani forces for now). So I have my doubts.
Anyway, read Daniel Korski's paper, it's a good overview of the problems in Afghanistan. One more reason to be interested: Korski "was previously deputy head of the UK’s Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit, an advisor to the Afghan Minister for Counter-narcotics, and head of the UK/US Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basra, Iraq. He had also worked as political adviser to Lord Paddy Ashdown, former High Representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina." And as a former advisor on counter-narcotics in Afghanistan, he also says that poppy eradication and the targeting of farmers is not a wise approach.


Daniel said...

Dear Peter,

Thanks for your comments on my report.

I take your point on CAS, and accept the progress made by some units in the east. But over-all, I maintain the view that the U.S-led coalition's view is over-militarised.

We need a politically-led strategy, a main element of which must be an improved outreach programme to "moderate" Taliban and focus on Rule of Law and local governance. In this, Europeans need to do a lot more.

See my updated assesment here.


Péter MARTON said...

Dear Daniel,
First of all sorry for publishing your comment only now, but in the previous days I just couldn't get around to using Blogger.
The outreach program - it could be improved, but one doesn't want to reach out to, say, Pakistani Pashtuns sent to the Afghan battlefield by TNSM, the Haqqani network or TTP, as those people supposedly have nothing to do with the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban's foot soldiers need economic incentives rather clearly instead of political ones. And the Taliban's local tribal allies aren't to be enticed "as Taliban," although they'd certainly need to be enticed - Musa Qala was handled well in my view, so long as plans for training Abdul Salaam's militia didn't get carried away a little (again, I can only talk about the way this looks to me, of course).
Other moderate Taliban have in the past joined the new polity in some quality, and perhaps there are some more who could be offered similar incentives. But I don't yet see a chance for a major reshaping of this outreach effort - not with the current structure of what is known as the Taliban.
As to U.S. forces - the improvements that there are in eastern Afghanistan probably attest to it that they are not so over-militarised in their approach in fact, since if there are improvements, those, at least partly, have to be their merit.
But I'm also making the point that such improvements there may be temporary given Pakistan's tendency to call for a big peace jirga with militants across the border at times when they claim to have crushed those decisively.