Iraq Holds Lessons for Post-2014 Afghanistan
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is now controlling a large swath of Iraq as the militant group is continuing advance towards the south. Iraqi army swiftly crumbled ahead of Isis advance as they lack robust aerial and intelligence support. Though there are significant differences between Iraq and Afghanistan, however, there are parallels between the two countries which are struggling to curb militancy in both countries. The same as Iraq, Taliban is continuing to remain a threat for the future of Afghanistan as the US-led NATO alliance is withdrawing from the country and will fully withdraw in 2016.
The United States is going to withdraw all troops until 2016 except a small contingent for protecting embassy. According to American officials, the mission’s core facets will be anti-terrorist special operations and training Afghanistan’s security forces. The post-2014 NATO military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 will be mainly consisted of US forces, but the United States its allied nations in NATO to contribute to the mission and provide troops for the mission. NATO member countries’ top officials are meeting in Brussels to discuss the details of the operation and commit for other nations to the Afghan security operation after 2014.
Though Iraq was confident for its security after American pullout, the country rapidly sank into chaos after US pullout as war raged in neighboring Syria. The militant hideouts in Pakistan carry the same threat for Afghanistan as Syria did for Iraq. For combating the threats, Afghanistan needs US support in many areas. Though the Western alliance is trying to convey the message that the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan will not be abandoning the country, there are fears that the NATO is jeopardizing the hard-gained achievements of the past twelve years for which the US and other NATO countries paid enormous prices. While on one hand Obama is trying to assure the American public that the Afghan war is ending, on the other hand, he is also trying to say that US commitment towards Afghanistan will not end by then and the country will continue security cooperation with the government of Afghanistan.
In Obama’s words the war in Afghanistan will soon end, while there are some levels of skepticisms inside the US and among some NATO members regarding sustainability of security after complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. Obama recently drew out his two-year program for the security transition in Afghanistan. He said, “this is how wars end in the 21st century–not through signing ceremonies but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and ultimately full responsibility.” However, many in Afghanistan and western capitals doubt whether the gains are sustainable enough to survive complete withdrawal of foreign forces.
In order to avoid the Iraqi lesson, the United States and its other allied nations in NATO should commit about 12,000 troops for the upcoming decade. This is while many in the United States see Obama’s plan as a minimalist objective for Afghanistan and a recipe for disaster after post-2014.