An open letter from Afghanistan experts to Barack Obama

An open letter from Afghanistan experts to Barack Obama:

To the President of the United States: Mr. President, We have been engaged and working inside Afghanistan, some of us for decades, as academics, experts and members of non-governmental organisations. Today we are deeply worried about the current course of the war and the lack of credible scenarios for the future. The cost of the war is now over $120 billion per year for the United States alone.

This is unsustainable in the long run. In addition, human losses are increasing. Over 680 soldiers from the international coalition – along with hundreds of Afghans – have died this year in Afghanistan, and the year is not yet over. We appeal to you to use the unparalleled resources and influence which the United States now brings to bear in Afghanistan to achieve that longed-for peace.

Despite these huge costs, the situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country. It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition. The Taliban today are now a national movement with a serious presence in the north and the west of the country. Foreign bases are completely isolated from their local environment and unable to protect the population. Foreign forces have by now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Red Army.

Politically, the settlement resulting from the 2001 intervention is unsustainable because the constituencies of whom the Taliban are the most violent expression are not represented, and because the highly centralised constitution goes against the grain of Afghan tradition, for example in specifying national elections in fourteen of the next twenty years.

The operations in the south of Afghanistan, in Kandahar and in Helmand provinces are not going well. What was supposed to be a population-centred strategy is now a full-scale military campaign causing civilian casualties and destruction of property. Night raids have become the main weapon to eliminate suspected Taliban, but much of the Afghan population sees these methods as illegitimate. Due to the violence of the military operations, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Pashtun countryside, with a direct effect on the sustainability of the war. These measures, beyond their debatable military results, foster grievance. With Pakistan’s active support for the Taliban, it is not realistic to bet on a military solution. Drone strikes in Pakistan have a marginal effect on the insurgency but are destabilising Pakistan. The losses of the insurgency are compensated by new recruits who are often more radical than their predecessors.

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3 thoughts on “An open letter from Afghanistan experts to Barack Obama

  1. Norman

    Good luck. “O” won’t listen because he really doesn’t care. Just keep wasting $$$$$’s until the Country drys up. Perhaps a better method would be to put every member of the Government who hasn’t served in the Military, “O” included, and send them over to fight the wars. Washington has a total disconnect to what the effects are having outside the bubble they have created.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    It could well be that with the death of Richard Holbrooke the possibility of a negotiated settlement too has vanished. I suppose Obama could select another special envoy to continue Holbrooke’s job but Washington infighting will ensure he picks some jackass who hasn’t a clue. What? You tell me Petraeus is already there?

    How about Bo, the White House puppy? I bet he can really wag his tail. Since he’s Portuguese and not American, he might, at least, not create more enemies.

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