Welcome to CIGI’s blog on Afghanistan titled: Dispatches from the Field: Perspectives on the Afghanistan Conflict.  This space will feature a diverse array of perspectives on the situation in Afghanistan from practitioners, policy-makers, analysts and keen observers both inside and outside the country. It will serve as a forum to comment on rapidly changing developments, critique policies and programs and present new ideas. 

Although every month seems like a new turning point for Afghanistan, 2010 will likely determine the success or failure of the internationally-supported state-building project. Some of the issues that this blog will pay close attention to in the coming year are:

  • The impact of NATO’s new counter-insurgency strategy. Can NATO forces really “hold” and “rebuild” areas cleared of Taliban insurgents?  Can it “win the hearts and minds” of an increasingly alienated and disillusioned Afghan population in the restive south and east?
  • The effectiveness of President Karzai’s anti-corruption efforts. For many NATO states this is the principal measure to assess the impact of governance and reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan. It is no mean task to reduce rampant corruption and cronyism in a country whose main industry is illicit narcotics, but donors must see some progress to justify continued engagement. 
  • The evolution of the Afghan national security forces. The international community has steadily expanded efforts to develop the Afghan security sector, specifically the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). Despite billions of dollars of investment, these institutions (particularly the ANP) are still marred by ineffectiveness, disorganization and corruption. With recent boosts of funding, particularly from the United States, expectations for the Afghan security sector are high for 2010. The Afghan security forces will be expected to gradually assume security responsibility for parts of the country.
  •  The viability of Taliban reconciliation. Even President Obama alluded to the possibility of political talks with the Taliban in his West Point address. It is now widely accepted that there is no enduring military solution to the current conflict; however, despite ongoing communication between the Taliban and the Afghan government it doesn’t appear that much headway has been made in establishing a foundation for substantive talks.
  • Will the donor community stay the course? The Afghan war is becoming more and more unpopular within NATO member states. The tainted Afghan Presidential election and the steadily deteriorating security environment have confirmed in the minds of many (citizens & policy-makers) that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Several NATO member states, Canada included, are scheduled to wrap up their military engagements over the next two years.  President Obama has clearly indicated that significant progress must be achieved in Afghanistan in 2010, or the U.S. will re-evaluate its position in the country. Will these deadlines spur progress or embolden spoilers?
  • Will the Pakistani government succeed in containing the Pakistani Taliban?  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan as long as they have a sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Pakistani military launched a series of offensives against the Pakistani Taliban in 2009. Its ability to regain some semblance of control over the border region with Afghanistan will be a major determining factor in the success of the counter-insurgency mission and state-building process in Afghanistan.

This is just a sampling of the myriad of issues that this blog will address in the coming year. If you have an opinion, observation or idea that you would like to present write to me ([email protected]).

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.