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The Case for a Light Footprint. The international project in Afghanistan Astri Suhrke, SOAS 17 March 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "The Case for a Light Footprint. The international project in Afghanistan Astri Suhrke, SOAS 17 March 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Case for a Light Footprint. The international project in Afghanistan Astri Suhrke, SOAS 17 March 2010

2 Structure of involvement Towards NATO and allied forces 8-10 bill USD in aid a year 60 donors and 37 troop contributing countries parallel structures –international advisors ubiqtuous –external budget (2/3 of funds) COIN: military and civilian surge to defeat the enemy and provide government in a box (General McChrystal)

3 Status 8 years of investment in money and lives have brought expanding armed conflict and risk of losing the war (McChrystal August 09) some positive development indicators (health/education/NSP/ roads) but growing insurgency, corruption, poor governance, aid bubble comparisons with other ill-fated interventions increasingly common (Vietnam, Soviet in Afghanistan) need a surge to exit

4 Key questions How did we get to where we are today – given that we started from a light footprint? –disjointed incrementalism (quagmire) – march of folly (Tuchman) –deliberate policy design/ rational actor What does the result tell us about the limitations/contradictions of a liberal internationalism Alternative policy options at this point?

5 The first, light footprint October-November 2001: disinterest/caution/ –US: military engagement dont follow Soviet path, use Afghans let the UN handle the rest (Bush/Powell 2001) –UN: fears of another Somalia, but narrative of collective responsibility in Afghanistan –Brahimi: self-determination on principle and in practice -Afghanistan unruly/unfriendly territory -Soviet experience -Afghan transitional administration prerequisite for aid -Afghan, not international, security force in Kabul

6 The aid regime moves in The pledging conferences –Tokyo 2002 (8.2 bill), Berlin 2004 (8.2 bill), London 2006 (10.4 billion), Paris 2008(20 bill/ANDS) Aid agencies, INGOs and NGOs emphasize direct execution – lack of local capacity –massive needs –massive donor money on the horizon Afghan Ministry of Finance fighting to establish control –dilemma of funds inflow vs building capacity –2004: capitulates w/external budget

7 Momentum towards a heavier aid footprint Under-estimating task of reconstruction and state-building Problem-solving: more of same – increase international resources rather than adjusting course. Why? –Ideology of liberal internationalism Lingering optimism of Bonn –Huge needs vs limited local capacity –Organizational vested interests –Control imperative –Political scrutiny at home –Military lobby for comprehensive approach (2005/6) –Limited imagination?

8 Military escalation ISAF expansion from Kabul to provinces –aid actors support to provide security for programs –UN Mission supports; buoyed by welcome of ISAF in Kabul –allies support as least difficult option (PRTs) ISAF/PRTs expand in size and function, merging command structure with other forces into unified NATO command OEF force expansion to fight AQT Merging ISAF/OEF command – (over Soviet)


10 Characteristics of military increase Gradual increase with little public notice/disucssion until 2008 Unclear or limited articulation of policy rationale in US –GWOT –Afghanistan good war but neglected war NATO allies –Alliance calculus –Goal inflation (NATOs future at stake) –Solution in search of a problem

11 Dynamic of US military involvement Afghanistan pre 9/11 not on US strategic radar Accidental involvement, random trigger (9/11) Internal dynamic of escalation –failure of Afghan model in counter-terrorism (2002) –growing insurgency(2003-4) –security for elections (2005) –recasting strategy – give COIN a chance (2007-8) –the windows thesis (peacebuilding studies showing initial military stabilization critical; now make up for it with more) –what we need to do the job

12 Rationality of military involvement Quagmire? (unwilling – unwitting) Oil and gas pipeline? Organizational rationality (can do, no defeat on my watch) Investment trap Rhetorical trap Strategic instrumentality post hoc –NATOs new strategic concept, global new threats require fit and flexible NATO (Fogh Rasmussen), Afghanistan good training ground –US – strategic access in region (Iran/Central Asia) Political risk (I will withdraw, but not until after the next election -JFK on Vietnam in 163)

13 The surge decision March 2009 – Obama opens for AQ vs Taliban distinction; debate on COIN versus counter-terrorism goes public December 2009 surge decision, clarity of March speech gone. Unclear rationale –who is the main enemy and why? – additional forces more likely to suceed than previous increases? –if main enemy AQ now in Pakistan, why fight Taliban rather than split them off? –if train Afghan forces, who is their enemy? Part of a bargaining from strength strategy –if so, why undercut by saying withdrawal by mid-2011?

14 The political anatomy of the surge Surge only makes sense as a political not strategic decision –second-term president –defend against the conservatives at home –protect legislation in Congress –do what is minimally necessary –low risk on my watch

15 Meta-logic of US involvement George Kennans prehistoric beast Miltarization of foreign/national security policy (Bacevich) –Culture, professional military caste,mil- industrial complex, Wilsonian idealism –[structure of U.S.capitalism] –Afghan engagement totally irrationality in terms of US national interests

16 Levels of rationality Partial/fragmented rationality ( political,organizational) Internal dynamic of intervention towards goal expansion and deepening involvement Limits policy options and increases risk: – deepening involvement limits future choices at each juncture –investment trap (defend what have done/investment) –rhetoric trap (increased the stakes to justify involvement) Increasing political costs of eventual defeat/compromise

17 Will it work? Unclear/multiple objectives (statebuilding, democracy,WHAM, reconstruction, rights-based development) State-building – reasonably effective and legitimate state –key to other objectives International project of statebuilding weakened by five contradictions

18 # 1 Control vs ownership Strong external demand for control over policy ambitious policy objectives limited or irrelevant local capacity high stakes (NATOs future) time constraint (political will at home uncertain) bureaucratic/political demands for result Strong Afghan demands for ownership ideological framework material-political benefits Contradictions play out on all levels Project, subnational admin/appointment, national policy)

19 #2 Dependenc vs sustainability external aid –overwhelming national legal resources 90-95% of all state and development expenditures 70 percent of recurrent expenditures in state-controlled budget –present rentier state unprecedented in Afghan history incl Daoud and Soviet period rentier states tend to collapse with loss of aid

20 Afghan rentier states Afghan) budget (core ) (mill afs) % financed by aid External budget (mill afs) President Daoud(1st year) President Daoud(2nd year) PDPA (1st year) PDPA (Babrak Karmal) President Karzai 2004/

21 #3 Dependence vs legitimate state The rentier state weakens local political accountability and representation –lowers incentives for local accountability –marginalizes elected/parliamentary structures –patron-client relations structured towards donors –donor priorities take precedence –salutary effects of domestic taxation reduced

22 # 4 Effective vs legitimate state heavy external hand may increase state efficiency but –weakens traditional and historically important sources of legitimacy (nationalism/Islam) –generates opposition on nationalist, religious,conservative ground –feeds into the insurgency legitimacy of external aid limited - utilitarian (social contract) elections as secondary source of legitimacy for state – external and manipulated by all

23 Cross-cutting contradiction: Building the ANA Armed forces central to historical process/projects of statebuilding Increase of ANA now dramatic relative to earlier plans and periods: / by 2013 (or before) Problems: –nationally unsustainable (WB:70 00 goal unsustainable) –extreme dependence on foreign funds undercuts national legitimacy in country and region (whose army? what purpose?) –unlikely to foster a democratic/legitimate state when civilian institutions weak (Afghan army in two previous coups, 73+78)

24 The multiplier effect The ongoing war intensifies the contradictions in the statebuilding project –pressure for more and faster result –pressure for more external control/direction/presence –military objectives/institutions favored –collateral damage and foreign troop presence used by adversaries to undermine legitimacy of Afghan government and state

25 What to do? More-is-more: counsel of reinvestment –more foreign funds, consultants, troops Strengthen contradictions in short run –Possibly overcome in the long run if sufficient funds&consultants to reform the state, drive out the black economy, foreign troop to work with ANA on training and COIN –Practically feasible?(to date, more-strategy produced modest results) – Politically feasible? To succeed will require such foreign presence as to be de facto trusteeship? (shared sovereignty)

26 Alternative: Pull back to reduce contradictions and conflictual consequences of heavy presence –military strategy reduced NATO presence in provinces, cease offensive operations give space for Afghan political dynamic/pragmatism –political strategy reduce our interference in the political marketplace – counter narrative/chance of renewed civil war military: international stabilization of capital political: devolution of power to provinces -insurgency: -National framework for some power-sharing and local-level deals or change of power structure

27 Ideals and interests Ideally: transition needs regional buy-in In practice: partial, continuous process Long-term: more important to accommodate interests of regional states than Western powers Long-term Western interests in Afghanistan? –Humanitarian and development assistance –Moral/political obligations to facilitate transition to lower levels of violence and framework for Afghan autonomous development –More cost-effective and focused counter-terrorist policies –Taliban can be our allies, not enemy

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