After 12 years of inconclusive war in Afghanistan, the White House is weighing on two options for the future of NATO involvement in Afghanistan. One option is by consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies opting for ZERO option, i.e., complete withdrawal of NATO troops by the end of 2014. The second option is by Gen. Dunford, the head commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The option of the intelligence group, if implemented, will minimize or eliminate further U.S. human losses in Afghanistan and will save substantial expenditures of wealth on military operations in Afghanistan. It is axiomatic that the current Afghan troops and police forces' loyalty is with their tribal warlords rather than with the central government and they will leave their posts with or without U.S. security agreement. The report by the intelligence group report accurately points out that regardless of the timeline of NATO withdrawal the end result will be the same, i.e., the central government, as it is constituted now, will fold. The option by intelligence group is realistic. Under this option it would be possible for the U.S. to re-institute the Doha peace conference and get agreement of various factions to guarantee civil rights for women, to abstain from use of force and violence in resolving difference with other factions, and possibly engaging the UN to guarantee the elements of the peace accord. The creation of peace among different ethnic Afghan factions will be a great U.S. contribution to Afghan society and to regional stability. At this time, the U.S. has the leverage with the various Afghan factions to implement a peace accord.
Essentially, a major advantage of this option will be to cut the cost of future security expenditures in the post withdrawal period and end or minimize tribal intrigue. The disadvantage of this plan may be the risk to leave the various Afghan factions to their own devices which could be ruinous for Afghanistan and regional stability. A peace agreement must be struck by re-instituting the Doha peace conference to rectify such future risks.
Indeed it will be a blessing if the people of Afghanistan will experience peace after more than 30 years of war and seek political freedom, economic sustenance, education for boys and girls, employment opportunity for men and women and physical and social infrastructure.
The alternative option is advanced by Gen. Dunford head of NATO commander in Afghanistan. Dunford's plan envisions maintaining 12,000 troops in bases in Afghanistan (8,000 U.S. soldiers and 4,000 by other NATO members). The rationale of this plans rests on the idea that the presence of NATO troops will help the central government create stability and in due course will wipe out the insurgency. There are a number of doubts and disadvantages to Dunford's plan in light of the fact that 10 times that many NATO soldiers in Afghanistan over the last 12 years failed to produce stability. Moreover, the presence of 12000 NATO soldiers will sustain human losses. NATO soldiers will be "sitting ducks" in the bases who will be shot at by Afghan officers, the resistance, insurgents and jihadis from the region. More importantly, it is not certain that 12,000 NATO soldiers will be sufficient as that figure may be speculative? Moreover, under Dunford's plan the war would continue indefinitely against NATO and it will instigate in-fighting pitting the various Afghan factions. It is not clear what would be the advantage of Dunford's plan to U.S. interest and national security.
U.S. concern of future Afghanistan's connection with al Qaeda is moot and Afghanistan's experience with al Qaeda connection is prohibitive regarding any future relations. Moreover, there does not seem to be any strategic advantage for the U.S. in Afghanistan under either options.
After 12 years of inconclusive war, the moral imperatives of the situation dictate that the human suffering must cease. The loss of property and wealth by the warring parties has been prohibitive. It is high time that a judicious decision is made that is consonant with President Barack Obama's repeated promise to the American public that the war in Afghanistan will end in the year 2014.
Nake M. Kamrany is professor of economics and director of program in Law and economics at the University of Southern California and a member of California Bar.