Thinking About Afghanistan

by Patrick Appel

Andrew Exum is starting an Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue and asking readers to participate. The question:

Is the war in Afghanistan in the interests of the United States and its allies? If so, at what point do the resources we are expending become too high a cost to bear? What are the strategic limitations of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine and operations? And if the war is not in the interests of the United States and its allies, what are U.S. and allied interests in Central Asia – and how do you propose to secure them?

Marc Lynch responds:

I have an open mind on these questions, want the U.S. mission to succeed, and have a great deal of confidence in the Obama national security team.  I know that there have been a number of policy reviews at all levels of the government on Afghanistan strategy, and that most of the questions I can raise have already been discussed at one or the other.   But at the same time, I find the strategic rationale for escalating the war in Afghanistan extremely thin, and the mismatch between avowed aims and available resources frighteningly wide.  What are the strategic reasons for expanding the commitment in Afghanistan?  Why should the US be committing to a project of armed state building now, in 2009?