Coa 1 — Help The Afghanistan Government In The Reintegration AND Reconciliation With Insurgents (Diplomatic, Economic) Essay Sample
In recent times, Taliban activity has increased in the Eastern and Southern parts of Afghanistan and Western parts of Pakistan. Additionally, the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan is on the rise. In light of these recent developments, the US Council of Foreign Relations recommends the following Course of Actions (COAs). These COAs focus mainly on three instruments of power (IOP); Military, Diplomacy and Economy.
It is critical that we do not overreact by increasing the military presence in the region in reaction to the recent increased activity of Taliban and other terrorists groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the past, increased military action in Afghanistan only intensified tension between the USA and Afghanistan.
However, in order to bring peace in the region and improve the US relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is important to minimize the presence of Taliban (Felbab-Brown). Taliban is no longer the force it used to be ten years back when it ruled a part of Afghanistan and was supported by other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. The US military spends over $25 billion every year for its military operation alone. However, it cannot completely remove its military forces from Afghanistan as long as it feels threatened by Taliban (McNally and Bucala). By capturing the northern city of Kunduz and Hemland Province, Taliban has shown that it is still a threat to the Afghan government and the US military forces present in the country (McNally and Bucala). Although we think that Taliban does not have the capability to overthrow the Afghanistan government, it certainly can wreak havoc in Afghanistan to hinder the country’s economic progress. Most of the recent attacks and intelligence information suggest that Taliban safe-haven has shifted from the eastern and northern side of Afghanistan to western provinces of Pakistan.
Although as per the Afghanistan policy of Obama administration in 2010, the military presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan has gone down drastically from 100,000 in 2011 to less than 10,000 in November, 2015, caution should be taken before removing the military and intelligence presence completely (McNally and Bucala). I believe that the following measures would be prudent enough to address the situation:
People of Afghanistan, Afghanistan policy and military forces face the greatest risk from Taliban aggression. Therefore, an essential first step in the policy development must be coordination with the government of Afghanistan. Both the USA and Afghanistan government must agree on a common response against the Taliban threat.
The Office of Foreign Affairs recommends that immediate and regular meeting be arranged between the Secretary of State and the President of Afghanistan to decide on the short term and long term approach. The Office of Foreign Affairs should also be present in those meetings as they can provide valuable strategic input in terms of maintaining balance of power and strategic position of the USA in the Middle East region.
The Office of Foreign Affairs should also get involved into peace talks with different Taliban leaders. In the past, reintegration and reconciliation programs have encouraged over 10,000 Taliban militants to surrender arms and integrate back in the society (The White House pg3). The US should continue to facilitate this process, which is bringing long term peace in Afghanistan.
COA 1 Serves Our National Interests
The National Interest of Security – The USA has no close ally in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran region. However, as per a survey conducted by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2012, the image of the USA among Afghan people has improved tremendously from 2011 onwards. In Afghanistan, more than 2,000 US soldiers have died in the last 15 years (Katzman). Furthermore, in the past, a disturbed and disintegrated Afghanistan nurtured many terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda under the Taliban regime, who were directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of US civilians and soldiers. Therefore, if the reintegration and reconciliation process improves the security level in Afghanistan, it will also improve the overall national security interest of the USA.
The National Interest of Order – We will continue to have a positive, comprehensive and constructive relationship with Afghanistan. However, the USA will slowly enable the Afghanistan government and military forces to undertake a leadership role in the fight against Taliban. Even with the sudden increase in Taliban attacks, we recommend that the USA continue to follow its present policy of local ownership of the Taliban situation.
Why COA 1 May Fail?
This policy has the potential to fail for multiple reasons. During the reintegration and reconciliation process, Taliban leaders may demand higher government posts, territory or release of captured Taliban terrorists. This, if not handled in a proper way, has the potential to push back Afghanistan into another Taliban regime. At least, this may create a situation in which the government will be forced to introduce laws that are non-democratic and partial. Especially, women may face huge problems. However, in recent years, Taliban has been disintegrated into many small factions. Each faction has its own agenda and often these factions fight with one another. Additionally, with the help of the US military, Afghanistan is able to create a military force of more than 150,000 personnel (McNally and Bucala). Therefore, during the reintegration and reconciliation process, Taliban leaders will have less bargaining power.
COA 2— Work with China, India and Saudi Arabia to improve COORDINATED RESPONSE/ Economic Assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Economic)
The USA is the biggest supplier of aid to Afghanistan with more than $3 billion aid provided every year. Saudi Arabia, India, and China are the biggest trading partners of Afghanistan. China and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest trading partners for Pakistan. Economic activity from Afghanistan and Pakistan to these countries is flourishing in recent years. Local trade is essential for the long term growth and stability of these two countries. Although Afghanistan will require aid in the future, increase in trading activity will certainly help Afghanistan become economically self-sufficient at an accelerated pace (The White House pg6). The USA can pressurize Saudi Arabia, India, and China to help develop Afghanistan in a coordinated way as these countries will suffer most if Afghanistan continues to remain a safe haven for terrorists.
Last year, China voted for tighter sanctions against Afghanistan as its terrorists groups such as Taliban and Al Qaeda were responsible for disrupting peace in the China-Pakistan Karakoram trade route (Katzman). However, after a long gap of ten years, Afghanistan has finally started its trading relation with India. India is also willing to support the development of military and police system in Afghanistan to better equip the country against Taliban and other terrorist groups. India has recently provided Mi-28 helicopters to the Afghan military (Katzman).
Local powerhouses are the main center of gravity in our response to Taliban threat in Afghanistan. Afghanistan government is certainly an important part in this process, but local powerhouses supporting the Afghan government will also help increase the overall security in the region.
The Indian Prime Minister has already met with the Afghan President and started a bilateral process in the areas of defense and trade. Saudi Arabia and India are the allies of the USA and we recommend that the Secretary of State talk to the corresponding counterparts in those countries to make them understand the benefit out of a coordinated approach.
COA 2 Serves Our National Interests
The National Interest of Security – A coordinated approach will ensure quicker economic development in Afghanistan. The economic development will also be broad based. This will ensure that the government is better equipped to deal with challenges such as poverty, education, food and health needs. These are the main concern of the people against the current government. If they can improve on these areas with the help from the USA and other local powerhouses, then the overall popularity of Taliban will plummet. This will improve the overall security in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, which in turn will make the life of the military and intelligence personnel deployed in Afghanistan safer.
The National Interest of Value – We not only believe in the betterment of life of our citizens but also believe in creating a better and safer world. Through a local coordinated response, the development of Afghanistan will be accelerated. This will improve the quality of life for Afghan people as they no longer have to live in the constant fear of Taliban and live under abject poverty.
Why COA 2 May Fail?
This policy has the maximum chance of failure. As it involves multiple countries coordinating with each other for a common cause, there is little chance of reaching consensus. India, China and Saudi Arabia will be more interested in economic benefit than improving the life of Afghani people. These countries will not be willing to participate with the USA to take an active role against Taliban. These countries will fear that an active involvement will result in retaliation from Taliban and other terrorist groups in their countries. However, if the Ministry of Defense is able to make these countries understand that without their participation, Taliban threat will continue and those countries will be the worst sufferers, then these countries may be willing to cooperate with the USA.
COA 3—Evaluate and Augment Own Defense and Intelligence System in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Military)
Although Taliban is no longer a huge threat to the American military, Afghanistan and Pakistan have a number of terrorist groups, such as Laskar-e-Taiba, Al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad Union, operating in the area (McNally and Bucala). Taliban can quickly become stronger again if they get required support from other terrorist groups. Other terrorist groups can also emerge as major threats with Taliban support. The USA, in recent years, is facing major security threats from groups that originated in Pakistan or Afghanistan. In fact, ISIS, which is considered the major threat to the USA, has started expanding its operation in Afghanistan. It is estimated that there are close to 3,000 ISIS militants in Afghanistan currently (McNally and Bucala). If ISIS joins hands with Taliban, then the Afghan government may find it difficult to contain this dual threat.
We suggest that the US military and intelligence keep strategic presence in the region. If the US forces completely leave Afghanistan, then terrorist groups and Taliban can slowly re-establish their presence without the USA knowing or taking any action. However, if we continue to have presence in the region to provide intelligence and covert operation support to Afghanistan and Pakistan, then we will have up to date information about the activities of Taliban and other militant groups. This will help us take future course of military and strategic actions. To do this, we need to collaborate with the Afghan and Pakistani government and their intelligence agencies.
Additionally, we need to invest heavily in technology that can detect and decode communication of terrorist groups and can also detect the movement of missiles and other equipments of mass destruction easily. Finally, to ensure seamless and secure operation of its intelligence system, two marine ships should be deployed in the Arabian Sea close to Afghanistan and Pakistan shorelines.
COA 3 Serves Our National Interests
The National Interest of Security – The primary goal of the USA was to de-Talibanize Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the strategy used in the past backfired and thousands of lives were lost. However, from 2010, we changed our strategy to ensure better security of our citizens. Reduction in the number of forces has certainly helped reduce the number of lives lost in battles or terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Intelligence is the most efficient weapon to fight against terror groups ((The White House pg4). Improved information will enhance the security of the US citizens and Afghans against surprise attacks such as the one happened in Kabul in September, 2015 (Katzman).
The National Interest of Prosperity – Sophisticated satellite detection system and high-tech marine ship deployment on the Arabian Sea will require further research. We believe that superior technology and scientific research provide more advantage to us over others. The discovery of superior technology to detect and destroy terrorist attacks will definitely re-establish the USA as the main engine for scientific research and innovation.
Why COA 3 May Fail?
We are facing a huge government debt. The government is doing budget cuts in almost all areas, including defense. Especially, Afghanistan is getting less military budget allocation. Military research budget has also decreased. Without proper budgetary support, it is not possible to invent state of the art missiles, intelligence and other military systems.
COA 4—Evaluate feasibility of Covert Operations in Pakistan (Diplomatic, Military)
In recent years, terrorists groups have shifted their base from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Many of the Afghan based terrorist groups now are operating from Western Pakistan. It is also found that ISI, Pakistan intelligence agency, in some cases work with the terrorist groups for mutual benefit. In fact, ISI is known to help terrorists with required information so that they can successfully conduct their act of terrorism in Afghanistan (McNally and Bucala). Pakistan mainly supports terrorist groups in order to disrupt the growing influence of India in the neighboring region. India and Afghanistan have recently started bilateral trade and military cooperation, which is prompting Pakistan to assist terrorist and militant groups such as Taliban, Laskar-e-Taiba, and Al Qaeda.
The US is the largest supplier of economic aid to Pakistan. Therefore, I suggest that the US Department of Defense pressurize the Pakistan government to provide intelligence on the terrorist groups operating in and out of Pakistan. Additionally, I suggest that the Secretary of State meet with the Prime Minister of Pakistan to discuss the possibility of covert operations by the US military or by the joint military forces of Pakistan and the USA. By attacking the terrorist groups in Pakistan, the overall security in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will improve.
COA 4 Serves Our National Interests
The National Interest of Security – After 15 years in Afghanistan, the US forces have been successful in reducing the influence of Taliban in Afghanistan. However, Taliban and other militant organizations have mostly shifted their base from Afghanistan to Western Pakistan (Katzman). As the military presence of the USA in Pakistan is minimal and the Pakistani government is not cooperative in terms of sharing information or allowing the US forces to conduct undercover operations, the overall security of the US military deployed in Afghanistan remains unsafe. However, if the US government is able to negotiate or deal with the Pakistani government, then the overall security of the US military and civilians in the region will go up substantially. This security can be achieved through economic pressure (imposing sanctions on financial aid) or through diplomacy.
The National Interest of Order – Currently, Pakistan does not share good diplomatic relationship with both of its neighbors, India and Pakistan (Felbab-Brown). On the other hand, the image of the USA in Afghanistan is improving. In fact, in a survey conducted by NATO, the US is the most liked country among Afghanis. Additionally, India-US relations are at an all-time high. In order to establish the authority of the USA in the region, it is the right time to put pressure on Pakistan to abide by the demands of the USA. Pakistan itself is facing a lot of issues from the terrorist groups that they once assisted. Therefore, the US can negotiate with Pakistan to cooperate in tackling the terrorist groups (The White House pg5). If Pakistan allows the USA to enter their country and help suppress the internal terrorist activities, then Pakistan will be at an advantage. The US too will gain important intelligence regarding the terrorist groups that are threatening the entire world.
Why COA 4 May Fail?
The COA 4 strategy may not work if Pakistan is not willing to cooperate. The current Pakistani government led by Nawaz Sharif has not shown any inclination towards the US demands till date. In fact, the number of terrorist activities has increased within Pakistan under the rulership of Nawaz Sharif. Pakistanis are now more inclined towards establishing diplomatic relationship with China. A strong presence of China in Pakistan may not help the cause of increased terrorism and the reduction of Taliban influence in Pakistan. China may only be willing to help Pakistan where it sees business benefits. However, China is known to avoid getting into internal affairs of Pakistan as it does not want any backlash from the terrorist groups. The only way to make the COA 4 strategy successful is through the sanction of financial aid to Pakistan. Currently, Pakistan receives more than $3 billion as financial aid from the USA (Katzman). The US can use this leverage to negotiate with the Pakistani government for gaining intelligence in information and access to terrorist hubs.
Felbab-Brown Vanda, “Pakistan’s Relations with Afghanistan and Implications for Regional Politics”. The National Bureau of Asian Research (May 2015).
McNally Lauren and Bucala Paul. “Elusive Peace in Afghanistan: Taliban Control More Territory”.The International Relations and Security Network (Oct 2015)
Worley, D. Robert, “Orchestrating the Instrument of Power: Critical Examination of the U.S. National Security System” Nebraska: Potomac Books. (2015)
Armitage Richard, Berger, Samuel and Markey Daniel. “U.S. Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan”. Council on Foreign Relations. (2010).
Katzman Kenneth. “Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy”. Congressional Research Service. (Dec 2015).
“White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group's Report on U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan” The White House. (2015)