“AfPak 2020: A Symposium”

We asked four experts what US policy in the AfPak theater would yield in the next ten years—and what, if anything, Washington might do differently. Military historian Victor Davis Hanson begins by offering a contemporary context for American efforts; New York Times Magazine writer James Traub envisions what a partition might look like; Ann Marlowe, returning from her latest trip to the region, suggests that demography will play a more important role than we might think; and Matthieu Aikins reports from Kandahar on the need to spend less, talk more, and shed the illusion of “victory.”

World Affairs Journal

I haven’t had a chance to do more than quickly skim the above article, so I’m not sure how to compare the entries to the ChicagoBoyz Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable. I do have one quick comment on Victor Davis Hanson’s interesting contribution to the World Affairs Journal Symposium: Afghanistan is not Iraq, and some critics of the current counterinsurgency doctrine (we provide development aid, the population turns on the Taliban) don’t want to leave full-stop – and never have. We want a plan more tailored to the Afghanistan environment. But the good Dr. Hanson has forgotten more about things military than I’ll ever know, so we shall see how our current efforts are faring in the spring, summer, and fall. Bing West did say in his talk at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that the Obama Administration will declare victory this summer. “You can count on it.”


Anyone who has been watching the war in Afghanistan for the past two years knows that ISAF, having focused on southern Afghanistan for the past 18 months, now aspires to shift its focus to Afghanistan’s east, where the war has been underresourced and where, in contrast to southern Afghanistan, the Taliban has been gaining momentum. Speak to any commanders on the ground, and they will tell you that if they have their way (and on account of its complexity), eastern Afghanistan will be the last place from which conventional western forces will withdraw in 2013 and 2014.

Abu Muqawama

3 thoughts on ““AfPak 2020: A Symposium””

  1. I have just begun Bing West’s book but I have been in favor of getting out of Afghanistan for several years now. Iraq has the potential to be a prosperous country; Afghanistan does not. The logistics, for example, are impossible. It is sad to see fools like Peggy Noonan going on about how Donald Rumsfeld should apologize for not capturing Osama. She should stick with something she knows about, like the Upper West Side and gourmet pasta.

  2. I think West’s comment was about the fact that we will begin drawing down troops this summer and be “out” by 2014. My general impression is that he is worried about funding as we draw down the mission.

    As for Peggy Noonan’s article, I am going to disappoint you on this one, MK (I read your posts on Afghanistan at your blog. I marked them in order to reread each. Hmmm, need to do that soon).

    I don’t know if Donald Rumsfeld needs to apologize because I don’t know exactly what happened at Tora Bora, but some accounts (and there are so many varied accounts) state that we didn’t have enough people there to catch OBL. That was an error IMO. Mistakes happen in war. I have no interest in politicized “gotcha” but I think we need to know what happened, especially for the military’s sake.

    Was he there? Why did we have so few troops? Were they enough? Was it a simple matter of Fog of War and understandable at the time? Was it poor planning because we didn’t want to open up a larger front as we thought about Iraq? What would have the effect on the GWOT been had OBL been caught? What would it have shown our enemies?

    I understand her emotions in the sense that the book supposedly didn’t address these issues seriously (but I haven’t read the book, so don’t know for sure), but you know what? Those sorts of books never do. They are a generic genre meant to give a flavor of service and not to answer serious questions.

    That serious accounting needs to take place. Rumsfeld said Franks never made the request to him but did how we think about the situation affect our chances? Did we want a light foot print (“don’t introduce antibodies or irritants”) because that was our theory of Afghanistan? But I am advocating a lighter footprint now, so am I doing the same thing?

    Anyway, sorry for rambling. But I’d like to know what happened and how we got to the point we have and why we had so many generals rotate in and out and why both administrations never really had a clear plan for the place and so on and so on.

    I don’t know. Did Operation Evil Airlift happen, or is that an internet myth? You read so many competing claims and how can I possibly know from my vantage point?

    Someone will write a very interesting book some day about all of this. I’m not sure it will be entirely flattering of the process. I also don’t think you can focus on one person at this point because the details? Well, I sure don’t know. Did you read Dalton Fury’s book about Tora Bora? Any of our readers? That is a controversial book, too, isn’t it?

    Again, sorry for the rambling….

    – Madhu

  3. Huh. My comments have shown up to Michael Kennedy’s post but don’t show up here although posted earlier. Hmmm….

    – Madhu

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