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Posted by on Feb 23, 2008 in At TMV | 0 comments

We Need an International Afghanistan Study Group

We need an International Afghanistan Study Group, modeled after the Iraq Study Group, but with representatives from Europe and Asia as well.

To save the NATO mission in Afghanistan, we have to conduct a thorough, frank and honest evaluation of all our political and military strategies in Central Asia. We have to debate fresh and controversial policy alternatives, which include negotiations with the Taliban, the replacement of the Karzai government, military incursions into Pakistan, the involvement of Iran and Russia as well as complete NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Every option has to be put on the table and discussed on its merits.

So far the Afghanistan debate seems to be focused on how many troops European and American nations deploy to southern Afghanistan. The United States and Canada are angry that Germany and some other European countries do not share the burden of the heavy fighting. These concerns are important, but we have to discuss strategy as well. Not just the implementation of the current US led policy. Europeans will be more likely to send troops into harms way, if they are convinced that NATO has a promising strategy in Afghanistan.

While the United States (and Canada) are pushing strongly for more European troops, the Afghan government has different priorities: President Karzai has “repeatedly urged Western allies to provide more funds and resources to the Afghan security forces, rather than send more troops,” writes Sayed Salahuddin for Reuters. He adds that a government-run daily newspaper accused Karzai of being “under the influence of foreign powers and troops led by NATO” and that “the U.S. must set a firm date for their departure from Afghanistan.” Then again, Karzai has not been a great president for his country so far. Karzai also rejected Paddy Ashdown as the United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan, although he might have contributed to better coordination among various international agencies in Afghanistan.

Therefore, North American and European governments, parliaments and think tanks need to evaluate all current Afghanistan policies and suggest bold proposals that go beyond calls for more troops. We need an Afghanistan Study Group, that takes the Baker-Hamilton commission on Iraq as a model, but includes Europeans and even Iranians, Pakistani, and Russians.

My own blog Atlantic Review has covered the transatlantic controversies on Afghanistan.