February , 2020

People Aur Politics

A liberation zone for democratic rights, multiculturalism, international brotherhood and peace.


The U.S. strategy for withdrawal of U.S./NATO forces from Afghanistan, nearing completion of its first and largest tranche, was officially delayed at least a year by President Obama on March 24, 2015. The announcement formalized informal U.S. troop-level modifications authorized by the President that began back in November 2014. It was confirmation of a welcome and necessary but insufficient delay in a strategically flawed drawdown that will have lasting negative consequences if not altered even more fundamentally before the end of 2015. Despite the modest benefits from the delay, the largely unaltered U.S. and NATO drawdown trajectory into a limited support and counterterrorism mission—known as Operation Resolute Support— is too deep and lacks too many critical military capabilities to properly safeguard minimal U.S. and Western security requirements for Afghanistan and within wider South Asia.

The revised drawdown would leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2015.1 Unnamed Obama administration officials made clear that the president’s March 2015 announcement does not revisit the basic premise of comprehensive U.S. military and intelligence withdrawal from Afghanistan first announced in early 2014—only now this withdrawal would conclude more steeply in late 2015 and into 2016, removing all but 1,000 troops before the end of the president’s second term.2

Before this series of late-2014 force profile adjustments and the March 2015 announcement, the administration hailed the long-awaited conclusion on October 1, 2014, of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the newly-formed government in Kabul.3 This ten-year security arrangement, which had languished for almost a year, came with a sense of relief. It alleviated fears that Afghanistan’s lingering political morass might require the full departure of U.S. and Western forces by the end of 2014. But the details behind both this primarily counterterrorism-focused agreement and a parallel deal struck between Kabul and NATO remained a source for serious concern. Nothing in these agreements placed a formal, low-threshold limitation on post-2014 U.S. or Western military forces in Afghanistan.4

Indeed, President Ashraf Ghani quickly confirmed that, unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai, he welcomed a far more robust and capable extension of U.S. and Western military forces in the country.5 Yet, President Ghani had inherited a self-limiting framework where the Obama administration—in partial concert with an alienated Karzai administration— voluntarily constrained U.S. and NATO support troops in Afghanistan to 12,500 (9,800 of those Americans) beginning on January 1, 2015, with complete withdrawal of U.S. military forces promised by the end of 2016. The Obama administration consistently argued that a responsible transition to 350,000 of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by 2017 would also assure U.S. freedom of action in counterterrorism operations against any renewed presence of international terrorist outfits for the coming decade.6

But the assurances of a low-risk transition to security in Afghanistan do not withstand scrutiny. The promised level of military commitment remains short of barely serious, failing to reasonably safeguard the most basic U.S. and Western security requirements in mid-2015, much less beyond 2016. It is too small to offset the major operational support shortcomings of the underresourced ANSF, making it unlikely that outside financial donors or entrepreneurs will accept the risks of significant economic investment in Afghanistan. Despite the Obama administration’s grudging March 2015 concessions to slow the drawdown, its constraints still confine the U.S. military to locations, missions, and in numbers insufficient to detect, deter, or disrupt the inevitable rise in intra-regional militant and proxy conflicts. It also remains a misshapen drawdown framework, focusing far too little attention upon intelligence gathering and fusion of information about the ever-evolving major terrorist network threats that transcend the Afghan–Pakistan border and interact across wider South Asia.


U.S. and Western Security Interests

The United States and Western allies need not retain military force in Afghanistan now and beyond 2016 to perfect Afghan democracy, assure the absolute destruction of the Taliban, or force an unwilling Pakistan to revisit its support to militant proxies in Afghanistan. These objectives are strategically untenable and fiscally imprudent, requiring a residual military manpower footprint of more than 30,000 at an indefensible price tag of greater than $30 billion.7

Instead, the United States and its coalition partners have three main security objectives in Afghanistan and across wider South Asia, ones that it can only achieve with a more wisely tailored post-2016 military support presence in Afghanistan. (Why Afghanistan? Because Pakistan and Indian sensitivities won’t allow a U.S. military presence, and an offshore U.S. military presence cannot anchor a sufficient amount of timely intelligence or operational feel to reduce the remaining strategic risk to critical U.S. security interests in Afghanistan and the wider region.)

First, U.S. safety demands that Afghanistan not again become a safe haven for Salafi jihadist terror groups planning for and rehearsing spectacular acts of international terrorism. Disrupted but unbowed, a number of these groups remain willing and able to return to Afghanistan should a misshapen or underresourced U.S. military and intelligence presence enable that re-emergence.8

Second, the United States and its allies have a significant security interest in arresting the high potential for a spiral of militant proxy war in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan. Nuclear-armed powers since 1999, these South Asian antagonists have fought four major conventional wars since 1947, and since the late 1990s have cultivated an array of militant proxies in Afghanistan. Without sufficient Western residual military and intelligence presence, these proxies will increasingly come in contact with each other and compete heavily for the services of, or defection by, Afghan military units with loyalties on one side or another.

Finally, the United States and her allies have a significant security objective in assuring the cohesion of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). This remains a critical, more tactical means to reducing risk to the two U.S. security interests listed above, which are more strategic. The ANSF is a 350,000-member strong U.S./NATO creation that is and will remain extremely fragile. Even more than their Iraqi counterparts, the Western-trained and -equipped Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) lack vital capabilities for a serious and sustained counterinsurgency fight. Without outside military advisors or support coordinators down to the fighting brigade level in limited but meaningful numbers, these groups of trained-enough-to-be-very-dangerousmilitia-cadres are likely to fragment and scatter in a process that would guarantee return to a highly undesirable Afghan civil war. That, in turn, would increase the likelihood that India–Pakistan proxy clashes will escalate and that more ungoverned and unpoliced space becomes available for global terrorist safe haven.

The United States cannot ‘fix’ the region or eliminate the major security challenges most dominant within Afghanistan. However, it can better support the already faltering ANSF, become more aware of the rapidly evolving jihadist militant milieu in the Afghanistan–Pakistan region, and become better informed about the worrisome possibility of Indo–Pakistani proxy hostilities playing out across the border region. The ongoing U.S./NATO drawdown must be evaluated more comprehensively in light of these major strategic requirements.


Assessing the Environment: Afghanistan and the Wider Region

Undeniably, Afghanistan entered 2015 in a better place than it did 2002. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) completed formation in late 2014 of a third democratically elected government and experienced the first peaceful transition of power in the history of modern Afghanistan. Enormous international attention and over $67 billion in international investments between 2003–20109 have advanced Afghanistan’s capacity for self-governance, improved national health care, expanded schooling opportunities for Afghan youth (especially girls), and better connected Afghanistan to the outside world than ever before. Afghanistan also begins 2015 with a 350,000-member ANSF consisting of an army, a limited air force, national police, and border and customs forces—all of which are manned, equipped, and somewhat trained for internal policing and limited counterinsurgency operations.

These improvements and others are important. Yet, Afghanistan remains significantly challenged for the foreseeable future. Economically, it is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid. Almost 40 percent of the population is below the official poverty line. A similar percentage is unemployed. Most Afghans continue to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, and medical care. Participants at the July 2012 Tokyo international donors conference pledged an additional $16 billion in civilian aid through 2015. This assistance remains critical; as Afghanistan had a budget deficit that grew to 13 percent in 2013 as the decade-long artificial economy fueled by international security-related investments rapidly contracted. The United States and other international donors fund almost 60 percent of Afghanistan’s national budget, with the Afghan government only raising $2 billion in revenues in 2013 (against a stated budget need of $6 billion).10 In 2014, GIRoA experienced two major budget crises. These halted critical infrastructure projects and required an international bailout of $537 million to pay civil servant salaries including those for its military and police.11 International donations beyond 2015 are vital to Afghanistan’s economic prospects. Yet few post-2015 donations, beyond those promised by India and China, now exist.12 It seems clear that the international community anxiously awaits evidence that Afghanistan can provide acceptable domestic security and stability to warrant additional investments.

International investments also require belief that the Kabul leadership is taking verifiable steps to curb the expansive corruption in Afghanistan.13 President Ghani and his partner in the unity government, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, recognize this and are tackling the issue. For instance, Ghani has re-opened the long-dormant investigation of the 2010 Kabul Bank scandal, when confidants of then-President Karzai reportedly used the bank to finance a $1 billion personal Ponzi scheme that, when discovered, collapsed the bank and threatened the Afghan economy—but the perpetrators were never charged.14 Ghani also has prioritized legislation to effectively criminalize money laundering and terrorist financing.15 He and Abdullah have released a December 2014 anti-corruption strategy titled, “Realizing Self-Reliance,” which outlines approaches to redress the three “drivers” of corruption in Afghanistan: weak rule of law, collusive government procurement practices, and regulations that incentivize bribery.16 As a vote of confidence in these and other ongoing steps toward stabilizing Afghanistan’s fragmented political environment, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a “New Development Partnership” between the United States and Afghanistan, providing an $800,000 civilian aid package linked to the progress of Afghan reforms.17

Overdue anti-corruption strategies and political reconciliation efforts by the Afghan government are necessary, but insufficient. Potential investors in the country, as well as U.S. policymakers and taxpayers who are supporting current projects, also need to know that internal Afghan security concerns will not impact the flow of commerce. To use one example, China and India have already contracted to invest billions in mining Afghan natural resource deposit areas, but security fears have dramatically limited the pace and cash-flow associated with these ventures.18 Afghan security concerns thus are the linchpin to vital external economic and commercial engagements from the wider global community.

The most dangerous threats to Afghan security have not changed much in the past twenty years. Three main regional security dynamics degrade stability in Afghanistan. Each is closely related to a significant U.S./Western security objective, or a combination of all three. First, the Taliban insurgency remains Afghanistan’s most pressing security issue. It is very uncertain that the historic Afghan Taliban—the broad group including those loyal to Mullah Omar as well as those answering directly to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or acting as part of the Haqqani Group—will be able to unseat GIRoA ever, much less in 2015.

Although it is an indigenous insurgent group, the Afghan Taliban is substantively abetted by Afghanistan’s cross-border rival: Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban’s principal patrons, the Pakistani military and intelligence services, clearly support Taliban militant operations against GIRoA forces and coalition support formations within Afghanistan.19 This cross-border support enabled Afghan Taliban survival despite the enormous losses it took at the hands of a surging NATO–ISAF and U.S. military forces during 2009–11. Subsequent to 2012, quiet but persistent Pakistani ISI Agency support enabled the Afghan Taliban to return as a military and shadow political force in a limited but ever-growing number of locations across south and southeastern Afghanistan.20

While the Pakistani security establishment seems to prefer conservative southern Afghan Pashtun political-security control across border provinces in Afghanistan, there is evidence that Pakistan’s senior political and military leadership does not wish a return of the Afghan Taliban to complete control across Afghanistan.21 Nonetheless, the continued expansion of de facto Afghan Taliban political and military control in Afghanistan’s southern and southeastern regions poses a severe security challenge for GIRoA. Such a presence dangerously weakens GIRoA authority over internal security and puts at risk Afghanistan’s major economic transit route from Ghazni through Helmand provinces, the Ring Road, and the hub-to-spoke border-crossing roads that link to it.

Second, the security dilemma competition between India and Pakistan weighs heavily on future Afghanistan internal security prospects. India and Pakistan have a longstanding history of treating influence in Afghanistan as a zero-sum game. Islamabad believes that India has established increasingly effective political and economic influence in Afghanistan by leveraging U.S. naivete´, the longstanding hatred of Pakistan among non-Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan, and economic assistance amounting to some $2 billion promised—and over $1 billion delivered—since 2002. Pakistan’s dark perceptions persist despite the fact that there are only four Indian consulates in Afghanistan in addition to its Kabul embassy, precisely the same number that Pakistan maintains. Yet, the fear of being squeezed in an Indian security nutcracker has led Pakistan’s ISI to keep the Afghan Taliban in play as a security proxy in Afghanistan.

Conspicuous in this role is the Afghan Taliban’s affiliate Haqqani Network. An insurgent group focused primarily on the Afghan provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khwost, the Haqqanis have acted as a major collaborator with Pakistan’s ISI in striking Indian assets across Afghanistan, reportedly conducting major terrorist attacks against Indian diplomats and workers in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, and recently in Herat at ISI behest.22 Since 2012, Pakistan has increasingly come to fear a growing intelligence nexus between the Afghan national intelligence service (NDS) and the Indian foreign intelligence service (RAW). Long complaining about GIRoA and Indian covert support for expatriate Baluch insurgent activists, Pakistani officials now point to a growing number of reported contacts between NDS and anti-Pakistan Taliban insurgents (TTP) as evidence that GIRoA and India are colluding to try and topple the government in Islamabad.23 While shrill, there appears to be at least some modest substance behind these Pakistani complaints, making it certain that Pakistani security concerns in Afghanistan will only grow worse as Western forces meet drawdown timetables.

Beginning in late 2013, Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff, General Raheel Sharif, and other Pakistani military leaders reached out to the government in Kabul with offers of greater military and intelligence cooperation. Then-President Hamid Karzai politely rebuffed these offers as disingenuous, believing Pakistani support for anti-GIRoA militant groups like the Taliban to be intractable and the overtures to come from a cynical desire to counter growing Afghan–Indian security cooperation. By late 2014, Pakistan military leaders began touting the positive response of the new GIRoA leader, President Ashraf Ghani, to these standing offers as evidence of historic progress; they expressed hope that a bilateral intelligence sharing and border control agreement might be reached to inhibit the use of sanctuary by militants on either side of the border.24

While any collaborative dialogue is welcome, it is hard to forecast an enduring positive outcome. The fundamental mistrust between Kabul and Pakistani’s military-intelligence establishment runs deep and will not be overcome easily. For fear of its information traveling to India, Pakistan’s ISI will not fully share with the Afghan NDS its interactions with Pashtun militant groups that operate from within Pakistan and have had historic utility in Pakistan’s security posture vis-a`-vis India. Faced with such an asymmetry in transparency, the Afghan NDS will not decouple from historic ties to the Indian RAW, leaving Pakistan’s ISI wary of collaborative NDS–RAW support for anti-Pakistan militant leaders and outfits that may be hiding in the Afghanistan– Pakistan border region.

For its part, India has preferred not to provoke Pakistan while the prospect for outside-generated security and stability in Afghanistan was present during the decade of U.S./NATO security leadership. Nonetheless, India has longstanding enmity toward the Afghan Taliban and a silent but firm commitment to see that neither it nor any analog Pakistan-abetted Muslim militant outfit ever again rules from Kabul or governs sufficient space in Afghanistan to become a conduit for anti-Indian terrorist activities. Indian military and civilian leaders uniformly fear that any Afghan Taliban return to power would carve out a safe haven for Islamist militant training and a stage for terrorism against Indian and Indian interests.

While some opinion leaders in India have written that a more decentralized Afghanistan government with some space for conservative Pashtun federated control in the south and southeast of Afghanistan might prove tolerable, most in India stand resolved to resist any Taliban return—standing with GIRoA now, while preparing to vigorously support a non-Pashtun militia resistance to Taliban rule should Afghanistan break apart under duress from too little ANSF capability and too little outside economic investment.25 Increasingly, India has been offering more direct support to Afghan security forces—training, equipping, and education—as Western forces stand down. At the same time, New Delhi has been expanding and extending its military and intelligence footprint at locations in Tajikistan that can be used to provide logistical, medical, equipment, and intelligence support for a GIRoA fight against the Afghan Taliban or other Pakistani militant proxies. It is clear that India will not be caught flat-footed: New Delhi will support GIRoA’s efforts to remain sovereign and to safeguard Indian personnel and investments in Afghanistan, simultaneously setting the diplomatic conditions in Iran and the military-intelligence access conditions in Tajikistan to sustain organized militant resistance should GIRoA suddenly collapse under the weight of Pakistani-abetted insurgency.26

Finally, Afghanistan will remain a top-tier target for international terrorist organizations seeking safe haven from which to plan, plot, and launch catastrophic global attacks against U.S. and Western interests. Many such groups view Afghanistan in mystical terms—the home of the first Sharia law-based emirate under the Taliban—and believe the porous Afghanistan–Pakistan border, along with easily accessed international transit hubs from major cities in Pakistan, to represent the ideal location from which to manage global jihad.27 Robust U.S. counterterrorism activities on both sides of the Afghanistan–Pakistan border during 2008–2013 greatly disrupted the activities of a host of these groups, killing dozens of prominent global jihadist outfit leaders and denying these areas for unfettered terrorism plotting.

Bowed but unbroken, many leaders from these groups remain in the region, intermixed with jihadist outfits and local militant organizations in Pakistan as well as in Central Asia and Iran, waiting for the right moment to attempt reincarnation. In his September 2014 announcement of al-Qaeda of the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri prominently praised Mullah Omar and the Taliban mujahedeen, signaling to all Salafi jihadist groups in South Asia that they should fully resource a Taliban-led effort to reestablish a Salifist emirate in Afghanistan as Western military forces depart.28 At the same time, a growing array of South Asian-based jihadist groups has reportedly infested eastern Afghanistan. Even skeptics of Pakistani military complaints acknowledge the basic veracity of its 2014 reports that remaining leadership of al-Qaeda-complicit groups have gone to ground in Nuristan, Kunar, and Nangarhar provinces in Afghanistan.29 Consequently, Afghanistan will remain a highly contested space for bruised but unrepentant international jihadist organizations—and in combinations that will prove a challenge to even wellresourced and well-focused intelligence agencies.

The successful disruption of jihadi terror organizations from 2009–13 in Pakistan and Afghanistan emanated primarily from eastern Afghanistan and functioned largely from U.S. military presence there. Deliberately constructed as a primary feature of the 2008–09 military uplift, this backbone enabled the coalition to independently generate rich and timely human, signals, and electronic information about jihadist militant interactions on both sides of the Afghanistan–Pakistan border. The U.S. intelligence network arrayed across eastern Afghanistan produced an information-action link vital to credible counterterrorism. This was an extensive undertaking featuring military and nonmilitary intelligence agencies and units. U.S. military forces provided the backbone for this effort. Major portions of two 6,000-soldier U.S. Army military intelligence brigades spread into dozens of small operational bases across eastern and southern Afghanistan, co-locating with operational ground units, military special operators, and other government intelligence agencies.30 The precise number of U.S. military and non-military personnel involved is not openly available, but certainly exceeded 12,000 during the height of the four-year operational period.

This kind of a focused and U.S.-led effort was necessary because of the unreliability of regional government intelligence organizations, the rapidly shifting allegiances and combinations of regional and international jihadist outfits present along the rugged Afghanistan– Pakistan border, and the crippling capability and will issues inhibiting Pakistan’s ability to acceptably counter the threat.31 While the size of border terrorist and militant milieu has not diminished dramatically. It is thus more than fair to ask, how well do the residual arrangements for Afghanistan accommodate the retention of this important intelligence capability?


Meeting the Security Risks

Disturbingly, signs abounded during 2014 that the U.S./NATO military drawdown had dramatically increased risk in all three areas of the Afghan security challenge, and simultaneously to the three major U.S. and Western security objectives there. To begin with, the Afghan National Army (ANA) demonstrated considerable weakness in maintaining security against Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan’s south, its east, and in Kabul itself—areas where U.S./NATO combat troop presence had all but vanished by mid-2014. In the south and east, Afghan military units lost many hard-won gains from the U.S./NATO uplift of 2009–11. Key parts of the Sangin area in southern Helmand province fell under Taliban sway in the late summer of 2014, just a few short months after British forces and U.S. Marines withdrew. It took a substantial amount of direct U. S./Coalition military support to partially reverse a major Taliban victory.32

By the fall of 2014, bands of Afghan Taliban affiliated with the cross-border Haqqani Network were reported largely in control of eastern Khost and Paktika provinces, some of them there after fleeing in the face of Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb offensive in North Waziristan that began in June 2014.33 Finally, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, and rocket attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul during the fall of 2014 crested to levels not seen since 2008.34 By the end of October 2014, Afghan Army and National Police forces had suffered more than 4,600 deaths for the year—an unsustainable rate of attrition.35 These disturbing trends spotlighted the well-known shortfalls in ANSF capabilities that became ever-more visible during the U.S./NATO force drawdown.36

Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies exhibit no fundamental change in support for the Afghan Taliban and other anti-Indian jihadi outfits operating in Afghanistan. Despite late 2014 statements by U.S. military officials in Afghanistan that Pakistan military operations into North Waziristan have disrupted the ability of the Haqqani Network to launch terrorist attacks on Afghan territory—statements dramatically amplified in Pakistani press—there is little to suggest that even if true, these operations will produce lasting effect.37

Pakistani Army Chief of Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif stated that the long-awaited, late-2014 anti-terrorism operation Zarb-e-Azb into North Waziristan was a matter of national survival, and one that showed no favoritism toward any terrorist group.38 But the run-up to the operation and subsequent events tell a different story. Outside observers reported that the long-telegraphed operation allowed time for ISI-favored militants from the Haqqani Network and other North Waziristan outfits to depart the area for temporary haven cross-border in Afghanistan or in safe zone locations within Pakistan.39 October 2014 reports from Afghanistan that it had ‘captured’ two prominent Haqqani group facilitators only reinforced the belief that Pakistan’s favored militants have been enabled with safe houses elsewhere in the country. One of the captured Haqqani leaders—detained in the UAE or Saudi Arabia before transfer to Afghanistan—reported that he lived in the Chakwal district of Pakistan not far from the Pakistan military headquarters town of Rawalpindi.40 Simultaneously, Pakistan military-intelligence accusations that Afghan government and ANSF forces are unable to capture or kill escaping North Waziristan militants, and that Afghanistan’s NDS is actually working with Indian intelligence services to “turn” fleeing Pakistani Taliban into agents for use against the Pakistan government, grow greater every day.41 The historic Indo–Pakistani animus is palpable in Afghanistan, and the space for this animus to grow in size and scale increases with every withdrawn U.S./NATO military asset.

Finally, the U.S. drawdown from 80,000 troops in January 2013 to roughly 10,800 in March 2015 has already badly compromised the linchpin of a successful future counterterrorism campaign in Afghanistan: a robust and autonomous intelligence backbone.42 The ever-evolving terrorist milieu is a cross-border Afghanistan– Pakistan dynamic that requires retention of a fair amount of the superstructure painstakingly built between late 2008 and 2012 in eastern Afghanistan. But most of this superstructure has been lost already—a direct casualty of the Obama administration’s move to a skeletal military footprint by December 2014.

In the spring of 2014, U.S. intelligence officials openly acknowledged that the CIA must close its bases along the Pakistani border and pull its operatives back to Kabul.43 These officials made it clear that while intelligence assets and contractors are used to guard its bases, it relies on military transportation, logistics, and emergency medical evacuation and cannot risk significant deployment in Afghanistan’s rural areas without U.S. troops nearby. Thus, it would take another 3,000–3,500 U.S. troops—about a military intelligence brigade with supporting logistical and force protection forces—in the post-2016 mission to sustain a minimally sufficient, autonomous U.S. civil-military cross-border counterterrorism partnership. The early 2015 U.S. military force contingent in Afghanistan has too few of these intelligence capabilities, leaving the United States increasingly unable to monitor, anticipate, and counteract what certainly will remain a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex set of terrorist interactions. The worrisome security indicators in Afghanistan during 2014 most clearly gave President Ghani and U.S. Forces Commander General John Campbell pause—especially in light of the outcomes witnessed in Iraq and Syria, where the comprehensive U.S. military and intelligence departure clearly contributed discerning a major terrorist-insurgent threat too late, requiring a taxing and expensive U.S. military response.44 unbiased collection and Afghanistan–Pakistan is clearly not Iraq–Syria, but some of the enduring lessons of properly understood security challenges and reasonably assessed future military-intelligence requirements seem to apply.45 Two stand out. First, the nexus between insurgents and Salafi jihadist terrorism is pernicious and fast-moving. A robust, autonomous U.S./Western intelligence network is vital, as local intelligence agents cannot be counted on for transmission of important nuances of network interactions. Second, once lost in a country, a viable U.S. military-interagency intelligence nexus is very costly and time-consuming to reconstruct.46

A truly serious level of security commitment by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and for the wider region must meet three main objectives, none of which are sufficiently accommodated as of mid-2015. First, any serious commitment must include independent and robust intelligence and strike assets to track in detail and act swiftly against international terrorist organizations looking to establish sanctuary in Afghanistan. Second, it must provide ANSF with sufficient direct operational support in the key counterinsurgency capabilities these units inherently lack: aero-medical casualty evacuation, aerial troop transport to crisis areas, heavy indirect fire support from air and artillery, rapid and reliable logistical resupply, and reconnaissance and intelligence support down to brigade and regimental levels. Finally, it must sustain sufficient training and operational military presence in Afghanistan to dampen the incentives for proxy militia agents from Pakistan, India, or other regional actors in sparking internecine war in Afghanistan or cross-border war in Pakistan.

The present drawdown as amended in early 2015 still does too little for the robust operational support needed by the ANA. It also provides far too little operational or strategic intelligence framework to monitor the increasingly negative interplay of Indian and Pakistani proxy agents, or to independently track the ever-evolving cross-border terrorist milieu. There is sufficient flexibility in the BSA framework to redress these limitations, but only with a more sober and serious U.S. focus on the key types and appropriate numbers of military force required.

A proper residual U.S. military presence should be composed of 20,000 personnel, not 9,800 or 10,800. It must be augmented by 4,500–5,000 NATO trainers and advisors, not 2,700 or less. This force should not be cut in half in a year or zeroed-out at the end of 2017, as presently planned by the Obama administration, but allowed to remain at a 20,000 level until political and security accommodations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan and India, mature to the point where regional collaboration on Afghan stability is assured. Such a U.S. force would not be cheap, but it could easily be sustained with an annual budget of $20 billion—a far cry from the nearly $125 billion spent in 2010 to address a Taliban menace to Afghan stability and an al-Qaeda resurgence in western Pakistan.

Three thousand of these U.S. troops would provide multi-dimensional air and ground logistical support for tactically capable but operationally limited ANA. Another 10,000 are necessary for advise and assist missions with the ANA and with selected Afghan National Police (ANP) formations down to the levels of divisions and brigades—a far more robust undertaking than the present limitations to ANA corps level and above. There is no way to fight a credible counter-insurgency in the inhospitable and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan without indirect fire support, timely aerial strike support, aero-resupply, and aero-medical evacuation. U.S. forces found this out themselves in 2004–08, and thus committed several U.S. Army helicopter battalions and multiple U.S. Air Force air wings to these missions during the 2009–2013 period—support for about 120,000 allied troops in the field. In 2015, the ANA and ANP field twice that number of ground troops but only have about 10 percent of the U.S. air assets. A March 2014 report discussed in some detail how a weak Afghan Air Force raises serious concerns about the ability of the entire ANSF to combat the Taliban insurgency.47 A modest commitment of a U.S. Army helicopter lift battalion, an attack battalion, and a dedicated U.S. Air Force Fighter wing would comprise about 3,500–4,000 of this 10,000-person package.

A robust U.S. Special Operations element of 3,000 members must also remain to assure responsive and capable counterterrorism capability. These will assist Afghan special units against threats to Afghan sovereignty and must conduct autonomous counterterrorism operations against potential encroachment by international terrorist organizations.

Finally, some 4,000 military intelligence troops must remain to assure quality and timely tracking of the threats faced by Afghan and U.S. forces. More importantly, these troops would autonomously track the complex interplay of international jihadist outfits across the Afghanistan–Pakistan region, assuring rapid U.S. operational responsiveness to metastasizing threats and a robust independent capability to assess what will surely be incomplete and biased assessments from the Afghan NDS and Pakistan ISI.

The United States also would be wise to fashion a recurring annual (or biannual) field training exercise featuring an Afghan division paired with a U.S. brigade rotated in from the United States—thereby demonstrating continuing commitment and U.S.–Afghan interoperability. No such exercise was present in the initial plans for implementation of the U.S.–Afghan BSA.

Major U.S. force concentrations would best base from Bagram, Kabul, Kandahar, and points north and west, with only those advise-assist troops, autonomous intelligence, and Special Forces assets necessary for the south and east basing within compounds there run by the ANA. The March 2015 Obama administration announcement of a drawdown delay alluded to the fact that these three Afghan locations would be manned by U.S. forces through at least the end of 2015—a welcome change of prior plans to quit all but Bagram.48 However, a mere extension of mid2015 residual U.S. force dispositions does not yet sufficiently reconsider the enormous strategic risks from the existing undersized and ill-apportioned U.S. military element.


U.S. Domestic Politics—Past Constraints and New Opportunities

The Obama administration’s November 2014 and March 2015 announcements of altered troop withdrawal timelines for Afghanistan reflected evolving domestic political drivers. These considerations have long-colored strategic options in Afghanistan. In his 2008 first-term presidential campaign, then-candidate Obama labeled Afghanistan the “good war” and vowed that it would be his priority for U.S. forces in harm’s way—and one far ahead of any strategic obligation in Iraq.49 After committing to a surge of U.S. forces in support of his administration’s new Afghanistan–Pakistan (Af–Pak) strategy during 2009 (that led to an increase in U.S. troops from about 34,000 in January 2009 to 100,000 in mid-July 2011), President Obama made it clear that he would not leave U.S. forces there indefinitely.50

In many ways, the President’s impetus to get in, get done, and get out reflected the ambivalence of the wider U.S. polity to the Afghanistan enterprise. Public opinion polls in 2008–2009 found that the U.S. people worried about terrorism from Afghanistan and Pakistan, but were even more wary of never-ending war, and were angry at Washington for its spending addiction despite the deep bite of the ongoing economic recession across most of the United States.51 As observed by U.S. political scientist Michael Mazarr in a 2012 essay, almost 50 percent of polled Americans in 2009 stated that the United States should mind its own business and let other countries get along the best that they can, up 20 percent from a similar Pew Research Center poll conducted just seven years earlier.52

In 2009–10, the administration was able to walk the fiscal tightrope and load up the $35 billion supplemental funding bill for Afghanistan with additional non-defense appropriations, like $18 billion for Department of Energy loan guarantees and $10 billion for an education jobs fund, taking the final Fiscal Year 2010 supplemental authorization package to just over $70 billion.53 But the administration knew instinctively that it could not do ‘guns and butter’ with a deep or long force commitment into Afghanistan. From mid-2011 through mid2014, an unstated but clear Washington political compact made any serious strategic discussion of a definite withdrawal date all but unquestionable.

But in mid-2014, the domestic political calculus underwriting an inelastic, time-phased drawdown in Afghanistan changed. This change emerged along three dimensions—one international and two domestic. The proximate international cause was the rapid and noisy emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS’s rise came from a combination of badly flawed politics in Iraq after U.S. withdrawal and the chaos of the Syrian civil war. The dynamics of ISIS drew sharp and sustained criticism for the Obama administration’s hand in an abrupt end to U.S. military presence in Iraq and for the administration’s tepid funding for “moderate” rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.54 The ISIS phenomenon elevated a domestic political critique that the administration had badly underappreciated the security risks of imprudent withdrawal from overseas military and intelligence investments.

Simultaneously, the pain from the implementation of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, also known as sequestration, and its limitations on military operations and options gave pause to a number of national political leaders, both in Congress and in the White House. Two years of defense leader warnings that BCA security force limitations were putting warfighters at risk and undermining national security interests were having an effect.55 Many in Congress felt the political sting from painful sequestration layoffs of Defense Department employees and other federal workers in 2013.56

Finally, both of these factors took on a new context with the emerging race for the White House in 2016. By late 2014, most political observers concluded that the 2016 Presidential election would be heavily influenced by foreign policy considerations—and to a degree not seen for more than a decade.57 The early favorites to become party nominees and standard-bearers in the 2016 elections—Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans —have established distance from the Obama administration’s drawdown policies in Iraq during 2009–11 and in Afghanistan from 2012–14.58 Candidates with an aversion to remaining in Afghanistan or upping the ante in the anti-ISIS campaign have also entered the field, notably Tea Party competitors for the Republican nomination in Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz.59

The politics of the ISIS crisis and response created an altered landscape during late-2014 debates in Washington about funding for overseas military operations.60 A curious combination of Republicans and Democrats found common cause while generating an anti-ISIS funding amendment to the FY2015 defense budget that won Presidential support and a clear majority of congressional votes.61 This shift also generated a $64 billion supplemental defense appropriation beyond the baseline defense budget—now referred to as an Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. That FY2015 OCO included funding authorization for the administration’s November 2014 announced extension of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the numbers previously planned for in 2015.62 This convergence of political interest in better funding U.S. engagement against ISIS and other international terrorist groups reflects growing public anxiety with the revealed risks from precipitous withdrawal in Iraq. Year-over-year ABC News/Washington Post polling of Americans showed that in mid-December 2014, 38 percent of Americans felt that the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, up from 28 percent in December 2013; only 56 percent of Americans felt the war was not worth fighting, the lowest negative number since mid-2011 polling data on the subject.63

Alert to this U.S. political shift, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Washington, DC, in the last week of March 2015 with a shrewdly calibrated message attuned to growing U.S. concerns about international instability and ISIS. The Afghan president spoke in front of the U.S. Congress and several Washington think tanks about the emerging threat in Afghanistan, invoking the specter of an ISIS-affiliated group in Khorasan (the name Islamic radicals use for Afghanistan–Pakistan and Iran) and claiming that ISIS was already sending advance guards to southern and western Afghanistan.64 There was actually little objective evidence to support Ghani’s assertion about ISIS. Indeed, General John Campbell, the overall U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had only just before warned of a yet potential ISIS threat to Afghanistan, stating that the evidence of a presence thus far has been limited to “branding efforts” by individuals disaffected with the Taliban leadership.65 The General’s statement was much better aligned with the reality of what was a rather insignificant ISIS presence in Afghanistan as of early 2015.66 However overstated, President Ghani’s claims about ISIS risks for Afghanistan had two clear merits for the wider strategic case for greater U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. First, Ghani’s reference to Afghanistan being in the heart of the “land of Khorasan” was a worthy message. The ‘other’ international Salafi jihadist terror organization, al-Qaeda, has long coveted Afghanistan becoming an essential element in an Islamic emirate of Khorasan.67 As noted earlier, there is strong evidence that al-Qaeda’s central leadership will push hard to regenerate such an emirate in the event of a dramatic end to Western military presence.

Second, Ghani recognized—and was not too shy to exploit—the ongoing moment of U.S. political re-alignment, reluctantly accepting the need for annual defense budget OCO appropriations to counter international instability. To the extent that Ghani’s warnings dovetail with U.S. worries, then there is a prospect that U.S. politicians may, for at least the next several years, find some $20–25 billion in support of Afghanistan’s defense and in supporting Afghanistan’s role in countering international terrorism’s gain of a foothold in ‘Khorasan.’ The convergence of international terrorism’s new face and the United States’ post-2014 political balance between fiscal austerity and international political risk makes it suddenly possible to envision a pathway to U.S. funding necessary for a constructive strategic outcome for Afghanistan.



The composition, disposition, and authorities of a U.S. residual force are the most important aspects of leverage available now for U.S. security policy in a very dangerous part of the world. Indeed, South Asia is the only place in the world with two implacably hostile nations, each with more than 180,000 million citizens that have fought four major wars in the past sixty years and now possess nuclear weapons. It is also the region with the most toxic brew of international jihadist outfits and state-sponsored radical militia groups.

In these numbers, and enabled with the proper mission activities, a 20,000man residual U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan would reduce the searing risks left uncovered by the marginally altered 2015 U.S. forces drawdown plans. A properly crafted residual military force necessarily acknowledges that the United States cannot ‘fix’ the region or eliminate the three major challenges to security most dominant within Afghanistan. However, the United States can better posture itself to deter the worst threats, better support the already faltering ANSF units, better inform itself about the evolving nature of Indo-Pakistani proxy hostilities, and better ensure that it has timely and relevant intelligence about the evolving nature of international jihadist outfits. The end-state promised for late 2016 U.S./NATO military presence and operational authorities in Afghanistan remain insufficient to meet these major requirements.

Residual U.S. bases and forces in South Korea have been performing precisely such a crisis deterrence and crisis response role for at least the past 40 years. Declining from a 1953 number of 325,000 to about 60,000 in the 1960s and then to about 40,000 during the 1970s and early 1980s, forward-stationed U.S. military forces helped keep the United States “in,” North Korea “out,” the South Koreans and Japanese “calm,” and the Chinese “cautious.” In a parallel time, critics of U.S. overseas presence lamented that U.S. military assistance to South Korea at the time of the first U.S.–South Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in 1966 was four times what the Koreans spent on their 600,000-man military force, and that Washington paid for a Corps-sized forward-stationed Army force with three air wings—a total of some 60,000 troops—in a country barely able to stand on its own two feet.68 But less than a decade later, in 1975, that U.S. operational military and intelligence presence had enabled both regional stability and a Korean export-led growth economy to rise from nothing into an ascending economic entity. By the late 1970s, South Korea began to pay for its own security forces on-budget, and in 1991 Seoul began contributing toward U.S. military stationing and exercise costs.

In contrast, the absence of U.S. intelligence and operational forces in Iraq from late 2011 onward surely blinded the United States and her allies from the dangerous convergence of resurgent jihadist groups and politically disaffected Iraqi as well as Syrian Sunni tribes from 2012–2014, denying a timely or effective early response. The U.S. security interests in South Asia are no less demanding than in Northeast Asia or the northern arc of the Middle East. Prudence should dictate that Washington and its partners aim to have Afghanistan in 2020 look more like South Korea in 1966 than Iraq in 2014. The U.S.–Afghan BSA is not the same as the U.S.–South Korean Mutual Defense Treaty, but it need not be. The 2014 U.S.–Afghan BSA is permissive enough and sufficient to enable a full array of national defense, counterterrorism, and stability-enhancing activities necessary to safeguard the major U.S. security objectives in Afghanistan and within the wider region.69

Thus, why not scope the residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to a size and posture able to address the intractable dilemmas that remain? The hour is late, but the means to reduce presently unacceptable local, regional, and international security risks in Afghanistan are clear. So too are the domestic political pathways for fully funding a strategically serious residual force— political possibilities that were not present from 2011–2014. With sober reflection on the aftermath of a too-dramatic exit from Iraq, a comprehensive policy and strategy review for U.S. military-intelligence presence in Afghanistan into 2016 and beyond needs to be conducted during 2015, endorsed by President Obama, and its conclusions funded for the remaining months of the Obama administration and the beginning months of a successor president.



1.         Michael D. Shear and Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. to Delay Pullout of Troops from Afghanistan to Aid Strikes,” The New York Times, March 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/world/asia/ashraf-ghani-of-afghanistan-wants-us-troops-to-stay-longer.html; and Raf Sanchez, “US to slow troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, ” The Telegraph (UK), March 24, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/norththeUnitedStates/usa/11493 232/US-to-slow-troop-withdrawal-from-Afghanistan.html.

2.         See Shear and Mazzetti, “U.S. to Delay Pullout of Troops from Afghanistan to Aid Strikes”; and Carol E. Lee and Colleen McCain Nelson, “U.S. Slows Pace of Afghan Troops Withdrawal,” The Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/obama-meets-with-afghan-president-ghani-amid-troop-drawdown-concerns-14 27209840.

3.         Formally known as the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States of The United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, this document was essentially crafted between Washington and Kabul by November 2013, but then-President Hamid Karzai refused to sign it. It was signed on September 30, 2014, the day after new President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in. See, Marherita Stancati and Nathan Hodge, “U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement Signed,” The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-afghan-bilateralsecurity-agreement-signed-1412076436.

4.         The U.S.–Afghanistan BSA makes no guarantees of minimal military assistance, monetary contributions or basing locations. This lack of specificity enabled an outside-in roadmap for U.S./NATO military drawdown that had more to do with U.S. financial and political “supply” constraints than with the critical security “demand”

requirements generated by U.S. vital interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Asia.

5.         See “Afghan lower house approves 12,500 NATO-led troops remaining,” Agence Francais Presse (AFP) in The Japan Times, November 23, 2014, http://www.japantimes. co.jp/news/2014/11/23/world/politics-diplomacy-world/afghan-lower-house-approves-12 500-nato-led-troops-remaining/#.VH9okDGkPME; Clar Ni Chonghaile, “Afghanistan: what will happen when the troops—and their dollars—depart,” The Guardian (UK), November 27, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/nov/27/afghanistan-nato-troops-withdraw-ashraf-ghani; and. Rod Nordland and Taimoor Shah, “Afghanistan Quietly Lifts Ban on Night Raids,” The New York Times, November 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/world/asia/afghanistan-quietly-lifts-ban-onnight-raids.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&re gion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1.

6.         Administration claims are found in Gordon Lubold, “Obama Orders 9,800 Troops to Remain in Afghanistan with All Out by 2016,” Foreign Policy, May 27, 2014, http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/05/27/obama_to_announce_9800_troops_to_remain_in_afghanistan_all_out_by_2016; and, Adam Entous and Carol Lee, “Obama Details Plan for Forces in Afghanistan,” The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/obama-details-planfor-forces-in-afghanistan-1401234489.

7.         For several such indefensibly expansive proposals, see Seth Jones and Keith Crane, “Afghanistan After the Drawdown,” Council on Foreign Relations, Special Report no. 67, November 2013; Kimberley Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, “Why U.S. Troops Must Stay in Afghanistan,” The Washington Post, November 23, 2012, http://www. understandingwar.org/otherwork/why-us-troops-must-stay-afghanistan; and Frederick

W. Kagan and Christopher Harmer, “How Many troops does the U.S. need in Afghanistan?” Institute for the Study of War, Backgrounder, January 17, 2013, http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/how-many-troops-does-us-need-afghanistan.

8.         As an example of this risk, see Praveen Swami: “Al-Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahari Announces New Front to Wage War on India”, The Daily Express Online (India), September 4, 2014, https://www.opensource.gov/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_ 0_0_200_0_0_43/content/Display/SAR2014090415037228?returnFrame=true.

9.         Afghanistan Economy Profile 2014, Index Mundi, http://www.indexmundi.com/afghanistan/economy_profile.html. This figure may be low. The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) reported in September 2014 that the United States alone had spent $109 (US) billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002. However, SIGAR number includes a lot of military infrastructure expenses that are not unambiguously part of Afghan development assistance. See Tony Capaccio, “US Military Classifying Assessments of Afghan Military,” Bloomberg, October 30, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-30/u-s-militaryclassifying-assessments-of-afghan-military.html.

10.       These figures reported by the U.S. SIGAR in September 2014. See David Lerman and Eltaf Najafizada, “Afghan Deal Rekindles Question on U.S. Pace in Leaving,” Bloomberg News, October 1, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-01/afghan-deal-rekindles-questions-on-u-s-pace-in-leaving.html.

11.       Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow, “Afghan economy facing serious revenue shortage,” The Washington Post, April 15, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-economy-facing-serious-revenue-shortage/2014/04/15/6ddce38a-5be9-46ad8f3b-1eb2ef4ed9bd_story.html; and, “Letter from the Office of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and U.S. Department of State Response,” September 26 and October 10, 2014, http://www.sigar.mil/pdf/specialpercent20projects/SIGAR-14-101-SP.pdf.

12.       See Brian Spegele and Nathan Hodge, “China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan,” The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2014, http://online.wsj.com/articles/china-pledges-327-million-in-aid-to-afghanistan-1414566221; Gareth Price, “India’s Policy Towards Afghanistan,” ASP 2013/14, Chatham House, August 2013, pp. 5-6, http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/public/Research/Asia/0813pp_indiaafghanistan.pdf; “India promises more reconstruction aid for Afghanistan,” Press TV, May 22, 2013, http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/05/22/304832/india-vows-to-send-aid-to-afghanistan/; and Lucy Westcott, “Afghanistan Conference: U.S., U.K., Pledge Support to Fledgling Government,” Newsweek.com, December 4, 2014, http://www.newsweek.com/afghanistan-conference-us-uk-pledgesupport-fledgling-government-289338.

13.       Karen DeYoung and Joshua Partlow, “Corruption in Afghanistan still a problem as international donors meet,” The Washington Post, July 6, 2012, http://www. washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/corruption-in-afghanistan-still-a-problemas-international-donors-meet/2012/07/06/gJQAhxjgSW_story.html.

14.       See John Boone, “The Financial Scandal that Broke Afghanistan’s Kabul Bank,” The Guardian (UK), June 16, 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jun/16/kabulbank-afghanistan-financial-scandal.

15.       Hannah Gais, “How Ashraf Ghani’s Government will Address Afghanistan’s Endemic Problems,” The Diplomat, March 30, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/howashraf-ghanis-government-will-address-afghanistans-endemic-problems/; and, Mary Beth Goodman and Trevor Sutton, “Tackling Corruption in Afghanistan: It’s Now or Never,” Center for American Progress Report, March 17, 2015, https://www. americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2015/03/17/108613/tackling-corruption-inafghanistan-its-now-or-never/.

16.       See, “Realizing Self-Reliance: Commitments to Reforms and Renewed Partnership – Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” London Conference on Afghanistan, December 2014, http://www.afghanistan-un.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/REALIZINGFINAL-SELF-RELIANCE-25-November-2014.pdf.

17.       Abdullah Sharif, “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Pushes the Reset Button,” The World Post – Huffington Post, March 30, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/abdullah-sharif/afghan-president-ashraf-gani_b_6962074.html.

18.       For example, see Lynne O’Donnell, “China’s MCC turns back on US$3b Mes Aynak Afghanistan mine deal,” South China Morning Post, March 21, 2014, http://www.scmp. com/news/world/article/1453375/chinas-mcc-turns-back-us3b-mes-aynak-afghanistanmine-deal.


19.       For detailed evidence of this support see, Matthew Waldman, “The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents,” Crisis States Research Centre Discussion Papers – London School of Economics, June 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Documents/2010/6/13/20106138531279734lse-isitaliban.pdf, Vahid Brown and Don Rassler, Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012 (London: Oxford University Press, 2013), especially pp. 129-234.

20.       For example, see “Pakistan helping Afghan Taliban – Nato,” BBC News Asia, February 1, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16821218.

21.       Moeed Yusuf, Huma Yusuf and Salman Zaidi, “Pakistan, the United States and the End Game in Afghanistan: Perceptions of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Elite,” A Jinnah Institute Research Report, 2011, http://www.jinnah-institute.org/images/ji_afghanend game.pdf.

22.       See Rod Nordland, “Attacks on Foreigners in Capital Get Afghan Faction’s Message Across,” The New York Times, October 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/world/asia/haqqani-network-sends-message-with-kabul-attacks.html?_r=0;Paul Cruickshank, “The Militant Pipeline,” New America Foundation, February 2010; and Praveen Swami, “Herat attack a challenge for Narendra Modi,” The Hindu, May 23, 2014, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/herat-attack-challenge-for-narendra-modi/article6041162.ece.

23.       See Umar Farooq, “Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Covert War,” The Diplomat, January 1, 2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/afghanistan-pakistan-the-covert-war/.

24.       See Barnett R. Rubin, “Ghani’s Gambit: Can Afghanistan and Pakistan Ever Get Along?” The New York Times, March 18, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/opinion/can-afghanistan-and-pakistan-ever-get-along.html.

25.       Price, “India’s Policy Towards Afghanistan, pp. 3 & 9.

26.       For a discussion of India’s upgrades to its military and intelligence access in Tajikistan, see Rajeev Sharma, “India’s Anyi military base in Tajikistan is Russia-locked,” Russia and India Report, October 26, 2012, http://in.rbth.com/articles/2012/10/26/indias_ayni_military_base_in_tajikistan_is_russia-locked_18661.html; and, “India, Tajikistan to step up counterterrorism cooperation,” Business Standard, September 11, 2014, http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/india-tajikistan-to-stepup-counterterrorism-cooperation-114091101203_1.html.

27.       See Thomas F. Lynch III, “The 80 Percent Solution: “The Strategic Defeat of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and Implications for South Asian Security,” The United States Foundation National Security Studies Program Policy Paper, February 2012, especially pages 8-10.

28.       See “Al-Qaeda chief Zawahiri launches al-Qaeda in South Asia,” BBC News Asia, September 4, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29056668; and, “Full Text of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s audio message,” The Daily Star, http://www. thedailystar.net/upload/gallery/pdf/transcription-zawahiri-msg.pdf.

29.       See “Pakistan wants Afghanistan to hand over Maulana Fazlullah,” Expresss Tribune, October 21, 2014, http://tribune.com.pk/story/454861/pakistan-wants-afghanistan-tohand-over-maulana-fazlullah/; Bill Roggio, “US military continues to claim al Qaeda is ‘restricted’ to ‘isolated areas of northeastern Afghanistan,’” The Long War Journal, November 19, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/11/us_military_ continue.php; and, Zahir Shah Sherasi, “US drone strike kills 7 on Pak-Afghan border,” Pakistan Dawn (English), September 14, 2014, http://www.dawn.com/news/1131869/us-drone-strike-kills-7-on-pak-afghan-border.

30.       See Soibhan Gorman, “suicide Bombing in Afghanistan Devastates Critical Hub for CIA Activities,” The Wall Street Journal, January 1, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB126225941186711671.

31.       An excellent review of the daunting challenges faced from jihadist group combinations and evolutions in Pakistan and by Pakistan is in Stephen Tankel, “Domestic Barriers to Dismantling the Militant Infrastructure in Pakistan,” U.S. Institute of Peace, July 2013, especially pp. 15-21, http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/8112~v~ Domestic_Barriers_to_Dismantling_the_Militant_Infrastructure_in_Pakistan.pdf.

32.       See “Afghan troops battle mass Taliban Assault in Helmand,” BBC News Asia, June 15, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28012340; Rod Nordland and Taimoor Shah, “Afghans Say Taliban are Nearing Control of Key District,” The New York Times, September 6, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/world/asia/afghanistan.html? _r=0; and, Ratib Noori, “ANSF Regain Control of Sangin,” Tolo News, October 12, 2014, http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/16711-ansf-regain-control-of-sangi..

33.       See Elizabeth Williams, “Taliban Summer Offensive Shows Increasing Capability,” Institute for the Study of War (ISW), September 2014, http://www.understandingwar. org/sites/default/files/Talibanpercent20violencepercent20report_0.pdf.

34.       See “Violence Marks Afghanistan President’s First Month in Office,” Associated Press, October 28, 2014, http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/violence-marks-afghanistanpresident-s-first-month-in-office-612841; and Lynne O’Donnell and Amir Shah, “Attacks in Kabul raise Concerns about Security,” The Sand Diego Union-tribune, November 20, 2014, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/nov/20/attacks-in-kabulraise-concerns-about-security/.

35.       See Andrew Tilghman, New Afghanistan Commander reviews Drawdown Plans,” Military Times, November 14, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/14/afghanistan-drawdown-review/19041195/.

36.       The major ANSF capability shortfalls are well documented in U.S. military assessments and outside contractor studies. Among these, Jonathan Schroden, et. al., Independent Assessment of the Afghan National Security Forces, Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), January 2014, http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/research/CNA percent20Independentpercent20Assessmentpercent20ofpercent20thepercent20ANSF. pdf stands out as a comprehensive overview.

37.       On proud Pakistani press reports of U.S. military leader complements for the Pakistan military incursion into North Waziristan, see “Pakistani Army’s operation in North Waziristan disrupted Haqqani network: U.S. commander,” Newsnation Pakistan, November 6, 2014, http://www.newsnation.in/article/60114-pakistani-armysoperation-north-waziristan-disrupted-haqqani-network.html. For evidence of earlier U.S. military commander reservations about the impact of the Pakistani incursion into North Waziristan, see the statements of then-NATO ISAF and USFOR Commander General Joseph Dunford in, “Pakistani forces target militants without discrimination in Waziristan – security advisor,” Xinhuanet China News Service, July 21, 2014, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2014-07/21/c_133500222.htm; and, “US military leaders say it’s too soon to evaluate Pakistan offensive in N. Waziristan,” Associated Press, August 29, 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/08/29/us-military-leaderssay-it-too-soon-to-evaluate-pakistan-offensive-in-n/.

38.       For General Sharif’s claim that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is a matter of national survival and shows no favoritism toward any terrorist group, see Munir Ahmed, “Pakistani officials: Suspected U.S. drone strikes in northwest Pakistan kill 5 militants,” Associate Press, October 9, 2014, http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2014/10/09/usdrone-strikes-kill-5-militants-in-nw-pakistan.

39.       For example see, Christine Fair, “The Pakistan army’s Foray into North Waziristan: Get Used to Disappointment,” War on the Rocks, July 7, 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/07/the-pakistan-armys-foray-into-north-waziristan-get-used-to-disappointment/. Also see, “Senior Haqqani leader shot dead in Pakistan,” Al Jazeera, November 11, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/11/senior-haqqani-leader-shot-deadpakistan-20131111115352444789.html.

40.       Declan Walsh, “2 Haqqani Militant Leaders are Captured, Afghan Officials Say,” The New York Times, October 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/world/asia/haqqani-leaders-arrested-afghanistan-khost.html.

41.       “Pakistan censures NATO over militant safe havens in Afghanistan,” English Islam Times, June 26, 2012, http://www.islamtimes.org/en/doc/news/174377/en/doc/news/423234/israeli-soldiers-shoot-injure-palestinian-teen-in-west-bank; “Striking revelalreak/]tions: Hakimullah Mehsud’s top aide in U.S. custody,” The Express Tribune, October 12, 2013, http://tribune.com.pk/story/616941/striking-revelations-hakimullahmehsuds-top-aide-in-us-custody/; Matthew Rosenberg, “U.S. Disrupts Afghans’ Tack on Militants,” The New York Times, October 28, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/world/asia/us-disrupts-afghans-tack-on-militants.html? pagewanted=all&module=Search&mabRe ward=relbias percent3As percent2C percent7B percent222 percent22 percent3A percent22RI percent3A13 percent22 percent7D.

42.       For troop drawdown numbers in 2013 and 2014 see, Amy Belasco, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terrorism Operations Since 9/11, (Congressional Research Service, Report No. RL33110) (Washington, DC: December 8, 2014), especially pp. 9-11, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf.

43.       Julie Pace, “Obama to Keep 9,800 Troops in Afghanistan After 2014,” Associated Press, May 27, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/27/obama-troops-afghani stan_n_5397671.html.

44.       For a review of the consequences from a rapid U.S. military and intelligence exit from Iraq, see Rick Brennan, “Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2014), http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142204/rick-brennan/withdrawal-symptoms. For an assessment of the uncertain, but certainly extensive, costs to dealing with the severe security challenge posed by the Islamic State Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, See Belasco, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terrorism Operations Since 9/11, especially pp. 19-72.

45.       For a similar conclusion, see Mark Sedra, “The Danger of Unfinished Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan,” Security Sector Reform Resource Centre, September 30, 2014, http://www.ssrresourcecentre.org/2014/09/30/the-danger-of-unfinished-securitysector-reform-in-afghanistan/.

46.       This lesson is featured in both U.S. military operational lessons learned studies of Iraq and Afghanistan and in preliminary strategic reviews. See Decade of War, Volume I: Enduring Lessons from the Past Decade of Operations (Suffolk, VA: Joint & Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA), June 15, 2012), especially pp. 2-5, 25-28 and 36-37.

47.       Gary Owen, “Flying After 2014: Which aircraft for the Afghan Air Force,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, March 2, 2014, http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/flying-after-2014-which-aircraft-for-the-afghan-air-force/.

48.       Shear and Mazzetti, “U.S. to Delay Pullout of Troops from Afghanistan to Aid Strikes”; and author interview with Department of Defense official working Afghanistan policy, March 30, 2015.

49.       See “Obama calls situation in Afghanistan ‘urgent’,” CNN (US) Election Center 2008, July 21, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/20/obama.afghanistan/; and, “The First Presidential Debate – Transcript,” The New York Times,September 26, 2008, http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/president/debates/transcripts/first-presidentialdebate.html.

50.       The Press Office, The White House, “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” December 1, 2009, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-address-nation-way-forwardafghanistan-and-pakistan.

51.       A CNN/ORC poll in late August 2009 found that 74 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents opposed the war, leaving overall support for the conflict, 42 percent. See, Yochi J. Dreazen, “Call for an Afghan Surge,” The Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2009, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125302644252312177. Also see Jeffrey M. Jones, “Domestic Priorities Top The United Statesns’ To-Do List for Obama,” Gallup.com, January 19, 2009, http://www.gallup.com/poll/113869/domesticpriorities-top-theUnitedStatesns-list-obama.aspx.

52.       Michael J. Mazarr, “The Risks of Ignoring Strategic Insolvency,” The Washington Quarterly 35, no. 4, (Spring 2012), pp. 11-12, http://csis.org/files/publication/twq12FallMazarr.pdf.

53.       See Jim Arkedis, “Time to End Supplemental Budgeting,” Progressive Policy Institute Paper, June 30, 2010, http://www.progressivepolicy.org/issues/budget/time-to-endsupplemental-budgeting/.

54.       See Liz Sly, “The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein’s,” The Washington Post, April 4, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-hidden-hand-behind-the-islamic-state-militants-saddam-husseins/2015/04/04/aa97676c-cc32-11e4-8730-4f473416e759_story.html; Max Boot, “Obama’s Pattern of Foreign-Policy failure,” Commentary Magazine, September 2, 2014, https://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/09/02/obamas-pattern-of-foreign-policy-failure/.

55.       See John McCain and Mac Thornberry, “The United States’s Dangerous Defense Cuts,” The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/johnmccain-and-mac-thornberry-theUnitedStatess-dangerous-defense-cuts-1425943297; and David Weigel, “Iraq Syndrome,” Slate, September 9, 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/09/senators_weighing_obama_s_airstrikes_against_isis_democrats_fear_trusting.html.

56.       See Teagan Goddard, “Obama to Fight Against Automatic Spending Cuts,” Political Wire, January 29, 2015, http://politicalwire.com/2015/01/29/obama-fight-automaticspending-cuts/.

57.       See Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann, “First Read: A Foreign Policy Election (More or Less) is Coming for 2016,” NBC News, March 27, 2015, http://www. nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/first-read-foreign-policy-election-more-or-less-coming2016-n331276.

58.       See Josh Rogin, “Hillary Clinton Pushed Obama to Keep Troops in Iraq,” The Daily Beast, June 18, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/18/hillary-clintonpushed-obama-to-keep-troops-in-iraq.html; Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), especially pp. 460-470; Lesley Clark, “Jeb Bush on foreign policy: Mistakes made in Iraq, I am my own man,” McClatchy News Service, February 18, 2015, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/02/18/257094/jeb-bush-on-foreignpolicy-mistakes.html; and Matthew Cooper, “The World According to Jeb Bush,” Newsweek, February 18, 2015, http://www.newsweek.com/jeb-bush-foreign-policy307813.

59.       See Mark Welch, “Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Try to Out-Fiscal-Hawk One Another,” Reason, March 30, 2015, http://reason.com/blog/2015/03/30/rand-paul-and-ted-cruztry-to-out-fiscal.

60.       Hannah Gais, “ISIS invades midterms,” Foreign Policy Association Blogs, September 16, 2014, http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2014/09/16/isis-invades-midterms/.

61.       David Alexander, “Congress Passes Spending Bill Backing Expanded Campaign Against ISIS,” Reuters, December 12, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/12/congress-defense-authorization_n_6317742.html; and Dan Hirschorn, “Senate Democrat Wants Bill Allowing Andi-ISIS Strikes in Syria,” Time, September 2, 2014, http://time.com/3259564/isis-iraq-syria-bill-nelson/.

62.       David Alexander, “Congress Passes Spending Bill Backing Expanded Campaign Against ISIS”; and Belasco, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terrorism Operations Since 9/11.

63.       See, “Afghanistan,” PollingReport.com.

64.       See, Richard Sisk, “Ghani Warns U.S. Congress of Emerging ISIS Threat in Afghanistan,” Military.Com, March 25, 2015, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/03/25/ghani-warns-us-congress-of-emerging-isis-threat-in-afghanistan.html.

65.       Ibid.

66.       See “Foreign fighters flow to Syria,” The Washington Post, January 27, 2015, http://www. washingtonpost.com/world/foreign-fighters-flow-to-syria/2015/01/27/7fa56b70-a63111e4-a7c2-03d37af98440_graphic.html; and Don Rassler, “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan,” Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) – West Point 8, Issue 3 (March 2015), pp. 7-11, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/v2/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CTCSentinel-Vol8Issue322.pdf.

67. I     bid.

68.       See Chung-in Moon and Sangkuen Lee, “Military Spending and the Arms Race on the Korean Peninsula,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org/Sangkeun-Lee/3333; and “Inquiry into U.S. Costs and Allied Contributions to Support the U.S. Military Presence Overseas,” Report of the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, Sess., 113-12, April 15, 2013, especially pages 18-19, http://file:///C:/Users/Dr.%20Thomas%20F%20Lynch/Downloads/SASC_basing%204. 16.2013.pdf.

69.       See “Facilities and Areas and the Status of United States Armed Forces in Korea,” Treaties and Other International Acts, Series 6127, July 9, 1966, http://www.usfk.mil/usfk/Uploads/130/US-ROKStatusofForcesAgreement_1966-67.pdf.

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