There’s no quick fix in Afghanistan
Michael Williams | The Guardian
Last week Barack Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that he believes addresses the fundamental realities of the problem – including the rather belated American realization that Pakistan is integral to achieving even a remote resemblance to stability. The attacks in Lahore on Monday illustrate once again the need for a comprehensive regional solution in South Asia. But does the president’s vague public strategy hit the mark?
The most glaring problem with the proposed plan is that it continues to ignore the realities of development and military action. The White House argues that development assistance to Pakistan will help strengthen the state. The same has been said about Afghanistan. Research indicates that economic assistance and development do reduce internal state conflict and decay. However, development timelines stretch for decades, not days, weeks and months.
Military operations, however, are gauged on a much shorter timeline. Part of the problem in Afghanistan has been that development has been militarized. Development objectives are seen as a necessity to advance the political military objectives. This is problematic. Take Pakistan for example. On the one hand Obama wants to develop his way to stability; on the other, he continues to use predator drone strikes against insurgent forces. These strikes may kill insurgents, but they also inflame Pakistani public opinion against the US, thus ultimately undermining the development agenda.
All of this falls victim to a third timeline, of course: that of the US electoral cycle. Obama wants results in time for congressional midterm elections which are just two years away. If he is smart, he will continue to lower expectations because in two years the West will be lucky if we can manage the status quo in South Asia, never mind improve it.
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