Atlantic-community.org members generally agreed on two major inter-related issues facing NATO operations in Afghanistan: stemming from a lack of coherent strategy and clarity of goals, insufficient engagement of the local population and failing international cooperation, ISAF is seen as being in urgent need of grass-roots, systemic reform. Our members developed the following key suggestions towards improving the ISAF mission.
1. NATO must clarify its goals and strategy.
Strategy changes are necessary, chief among them being a greater clarity of NATO’s goals (I. Davis), as the lack of a coherent strategy is one of the most important obstacles facing the mission (Chubyk). Continued, credible consultations amongst all contributing nations are necessary to achieve a viable plan (Michel & Hunter). The Goals of the mission must be the development of a non-corrupt Afghan state with full domestic engagement and a definition of success that is culturally appropriate to the Afghan context – and does not merely mean an emulation of western-style democracy (Sontz, Reuther-Fix, Swierczynski). A reformed ISAF mission must focus on counter-terrorism, corruption (especially in addressing the political and human dimensions of the drug trade), as well as providing real, lasting security (Lucke).
Furthermore, the new approach must explicitly recognize civilian efforts, thus creating an effective, multi-dimensional operation (C. Davis). The new strategy must allow local groups to grow into an effective anti-Taliban force (Lawson).
What are some concrete suggestions regarding how the international community can fight corruption? Should western aid be contingent upon certain standards of development?
A recent poll suggests that support for international troops is up amongst Afghans. What projects and policies need to be undertaken to continue to improve ISAF’s image amongst Afghans?
2. The international community must win the support of the locals.
NATO needs greater support from the local population, and must get Afghans actively involved and invested in civil and security apparatuses (Marton). Training new security personnel, as well as updating the Afghan National Army’s weaponry must top the list when it comes to security reform (Vicenzino).
Reducing the Taliban’s support base is crucial in order to reverse the insurgency. There is some debate as to whether negotiating with the Taliban is a viable policy option now (Daiyar, Singh), though in the long run, some political agreements will have to come about (Sajjad). In the medium term, offering positive incentives, such as secure salaries or lower-level positions in government institutions to non-ideological combatants is necessary: by encouraging these groups to become invested in the political development of Afghanistan, the mission will affect lasting military and political stability (Kahn).
While this is a way to reduce the pool the Taliban draws its combatants from, preventing the higher echelons, namely militia leaders and those with proven records of human rights violations, from prominent roles in governments – local and national – is essential towards the development and improvement of the rule of law. Thus, the international community must demand that the Afghan government consults with its citizens and “supports justice-focussed political debate in Afghanistan” (Kuovo).
There is a general consensus amongst members regarding the harmful effects of warlords in parliament, as well as holding regional influence. What practical steps should be taken to improve this situation? How can their hold on power be reduced/weakened? How can the international community empower new politicians?