The only way for the West to prevail in Afghanistan is to lower the level of conflict by starting to withdraw troops, French scholar Gilles Dorronsoro argues in a provocative new Carnegie policy brief.
The main objective, writes Dorronsoro, should be to “leave an Afghan government that can survive a U.S. and NATO withdrawal”:
Policies that are not part of the general strategy should not be priorities. For example, it is not possible to have an effective counternarcotics policy or to impose Western values on Afghan society.
I think we all pretty much agree on that. Dorronsoro, however, believes the objective is best achieved by reducing Western troop presence, not increasing it:
[…] The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban. The convergence of nationalism and Jihad has aided the Taliban in extending its influence. […] The majority of Afghans are now deeply opposed to the foreign troops on their soil.
Instead of trying to flood the country with troops — an impossible proposition — Dorronsoro suggests Afghanistan be divided into three separate areas:
- Strategic zones (under total allied control).
- Buffer areas (around the strategic ones).
- Opposition territory.
Not everyone agrees with Dorronsoro’s analysis. But with good ideas in short supply, his European outspokenness is more than welcome. I just wonder if his prescription — that the Taleban’s advance can be checked simply by providing fewer targets — rests a tad too much on wishful thinking.