Improving Afghan Governance Why the Task May be Self-Defeating
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"The Obama administration has reduced the scope of its mission in Afghanistan, focusing only on improving governance and establishing key institutions like the Afghan National Army and Police. Nevertheless, there persists a fundamental assumption that the commitment of more troops and financial assistance will strengthen the existing Afghan government and facilitate the withdrawal of US troops. This article aims to challenge this assumption. It is not within the scope of this article to examine whether the new troop levels will be sufficient to support either a CT [counterterrorism] or COIN [counterinsurgency] methodology; or whether or not either strategy is appropriate or might be successful. This essay seeks to demonstrate that the international aid provided (both troops and money) has and will continue to undermine the authority, sovereignty, and legitimacy of the Afghan government at all levels. Therefore, there exists a fundamental paradox in the idea of providing more troops and money in order to improve Afghan governance. Evidence of this paradox can be seen recently in the increased tensions between U.S. policy-makers and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. There is a broad theoretical basis for this argument that dates back as far as John Stuart Mill, who considered self-determination to be of primary importance in the development and preservation of liberty. For a number of reasons (which will be addressed below), this theory has fallen into disrepute in modern politics. However, this author argues that there are important lessons that can be gleaned from this theory that contradict many of the assumptions held by the top political and military officers responsible for leading the war in Afghanistan. Furthermore, this lack of theoretical discussion has lead top political leaders to pursue policies that are ultimately self-defeating."
This article was published in Culture and Conflict Review (Fall 2011), v.5 no.3
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