The security agreement signed in Kabul this week is being touted as a step toward stability and peace but it will likely bring neither. By allowing the U.S. to maintain military bases and forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 it will prolong the war.
Under current U.S. military strategy, which will be ratified at the forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago, most NATO forces will disengage by 2014, but thousands of U.S. troops will remain at military bases in Afghanistan. This will be ‘counterinsurgency light,’ essentially the same policy as before but with fewer troops: military operations to kill and arrest insurgents, and support for the armed forces of the corrupt Kabul regime. This formula has not worked over the past decade and has little chance of succeeding in the next.
The U.S. strategy has no effective plan for ending what General Petraeus has called an ‘industrial strength insurgency.’ If U.S./NATO forces could not subdue the Taliban with 140,000 troops, how will they succeed with far fewer soldiers? When I was in Kabul last October security specialists said the insurgency is stronger than ever (with an estimated 20,000 armed fighters) and that the Taliban control vast swaths of the country.
U.S. officials have described the security pact as a sign of the American commitment to support the Afghan people. We certainly should not abandon the Afghan people, but keeping thousands of troops there is not the way to help. We can demonstrate our solidarity with Afghanistan through other, more effective ways: pursuing a comprehensive peace negotiation process in the country and the region, continuing to fund successful social development programs, and supporting the rights of women and other under-represented populations.