Afghanistan: Endgame or Persisting Challenge with Continuing Stakes?
After more than a decade of great effort and sacrifice by the United States and its allies, the Taliban still has not been defeated, and many Afghans believe that a civil war is coming. In 2014, foreign forces will complete the handover of security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts, international financial flows will radically decrease, and Afghanistan’s presidential elections will intensify political uncertainties. These challenges are mounting at a time when Afghanistan is dealing with rising insecurity, dysfunctional governance, rampant corruption and ethnic factionalization, while the regional environment is not easily conducive to stability in the country. With the U.S. and international publics tired of the war, fundamental questions about any remaining stakes in Afghanistan and the efficacy of any persisting stabilization efforts are increasing.
On December 11, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted the launch of a new book, Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan (Brookings, 2012), by Brookings Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown. Aspiration and Ambivalence analyzes the past decade of U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan and offers detailed recommendations for dealing with the precarious situation leading up to the 2014 transition and after. In her book, Felbab-Brown argues that allied efforts in Afghanistan have put far too little emphasis on good governance, concentrating too much on short-term military goals to the detriment of long-term peace and stability. Felbab-Brown was joined by Ronald E. Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005-07). Vice President Martin S. Indyk, director of Foreign Policy, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
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[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.