AFJ 13 Rules for Afghanistan


Force Recon
Verified SOF
Mar 15, 2008
Tun Tavern

13 rules for Afghanistan
October 30th, 2009 | Dartsboard | Posted by Karen Walker

An ominous number, I know, but it’s still a good list.

At the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy’s Afghanistan conference yesterday in Washington D.C., the center’s board chair, Zbigniew Brzezinski opened with the following three Don’ts and ten Do’s for Afghanistan.


1. Withdraw from Afghanistan;

2. Repeat the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. “There’s a reason Afghans don’t like foreigners with guns in their country telling them what to do”;

3. Make this a solitary U.S. military engagement.


1. Focus on a realistic and central strategic objective of denying safe haven to al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan;

2. Be extremely sensitive to the ethnic diversity of Afghanistan;

3. Shape an Afghan national army and police force, but recognize that doing so via the central government may not be compatible with also recognizing the country’s ethnic diversity;

4. Deploy only the number of extra troops that are essential to the counterinsurgency campaign, and no more;

5. Pursue the Taliban;

6. Keep economic assistance flowing;

7. Involve the Europeans, not only in military aspects but also in funding of programs such as anti-narcotic crops campaigns;

8. Be more respectful of Pakistan’s strategic interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan is afraid that a non-Taliban Afghanistan could become a neutral partners of India and that poses difficult diplomatic choices for the U.S. that it must confront;

9. Engage China and Iran more regarding their concerns in Afghanistan. China is concerned about the spread of militant Islamism and could be helpful to the U.S. in creating some sort of diplomatic process in the region. Iran’s stake hinges on the sizable Shia community in Afghanistan;

10. More actively move to create a north-south [natural gas] pipeline through the country to the Indian Ocean to help flow funds into Afghanistan and create a wider regional interest in stabilizing the country.
Don't #3: Uh, we're trying. While some nations have stepped up in spades, others are content to take our money and do nothing to contribute. Having troops in the country isn't the same as doing anything substantial. I can think of one nation that isn't doing squat despite the very strategic chunk of real estate we've given them and others that are content to sit in relative peace and allow the TB to slowly return.

Do #7: See above.

Do #8: Pakistan is paranoid in the extreme and rotten from the inside out. It isn't really a country, just the leftovers from India's creation. If they didn't have nukes they'd have no more say in the GWOT than Luxembourg. However, nukes + our logistics tail needed for Afghanistan means they have more of a say-so than they should; we allow them to eat at the adult's table.

#10: See in part #8. We need Karachi to ship the NG, but you also can’t have a pipeline until security is taken care of. No one will want to invest in a pipeline until security is guaranteed. Additionally, Afghans are suspicious that the profits will go to the pockets of Westerners rather than Afghans. I would expect the gov’t to try and nationalize the pipeline at some point, so better to have them involved from the beginning than bring in a Texaco or Shell.
With regard to "shaping" an Afghan national army and police force, I would add DON'T churn out maximum numbers of lesser quality and throw forces into the field who can't survive; DO increase the partners, trainers, embedded mentors and funding; recognize that police forces, such as they are, have been corrupted by warlords, narcotics and crime. I think FF can attest to the lack of unity of effort with NATO/ISAF/PRT. Part of that problem may generate from the various diverse national governments rather than from their commanders on the ground. I think also the Afghan government is as much a practical problem as the Taliban and AQ and should be looked upon as such. As far as Pakistan goes, from my limited and distant perspective, the two countries seem so different it doesn't look like one strategy can be shaped to encompass both, but perhaps two different strategies could be coordinated to reach a common goal. But any strategy has to take into account regional security and the global Jihad.

I pretty much agree with what ZB has written, but it's easy to sit down and write a list. The most important thing--and the one thing most difficult to maintain--is staying the course long enough to see the Afghans take over all responsibility while you gradually disengage. It's so exceedingly dependent upon political will, national resolve, the vagaries of economic pressures, international uncooperativeness, that nobody really ever has a chance in hell of actually controlling what happens.