The House International Relations Committee meets today for a much-needed hearing on the United States’ position in Afghanistan five years after 9/11.
Since the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government shortly after 9/11, Kabul has seen its first legislative elections in 30 years, created security forces, experienced economic growth, and improved access to education and health. Yet security in Afghanistan is currently deteriorating; the drug trade is thriving; the Taliban are resurging; reconstruction is faltering; and the government still has not established authority outside Kabul.
Afghanistan is experiencing its worst levels of crime and violence since the Taliban was brought down in 2001. Witnesses at today’s hearing, including Executive Director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, and the Director General of the Columbian National Police Jorge Castro Castro, will speak to this escalating problem and discuss potential avenues for action.
The Bush administration diverted its resources and attention away from Afghanistan when it began operations in Iraq. The United States can not leave the work it started five years ago unfinished. The strategic redeployment plan released by the Center for American Progress earlier this year calls for the United States to send 20,000 fresh troops to Afghanistan. The report asserts that Afghanistan has a greater need for these troops than Iraq for three reasons:
- Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has a permanent government in place and has arrived at a power-sharing agreement among its political leaders about the country’s future.
- Afghan security forces require greater assistance than Iraqi security forces. Iraq has approximately 250,000 personnel in its security forces, compared to only 80,000 security forces in Afghanistan.
- The Afghan public favors the presence of foreign troops, unlike the Iraqi public. According to a poll of Afghan citizens conducted in November and December 2005, eight in 10 support U.S. military operations against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and nearly 60 percent support expanding international peacekeeping operations in the country.
- The United States should integrate these 20,000 troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to create a single, unified NATO command headed by an American three-star general. Together, the troops will be able to complete the three critical tasks of fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, increasing border security in southeastern Afghanistan, and supporting Afghan security force training.
- Lacking sufficient resources and support for the United States, Afghanistan has been forced to push back its goal of having a fully constituted, professional, functional, and ethnically balanced 62,000-person police force by 2005 and a fully operational army of 70,000 troops by 2010. Without a fully functional army and police force, Afghanistan cannot maintain stability on its own. The United States must begin the process of returning to Afghanistan to help bring about the changes that it began.
Read the full report calling for strategic redeployment in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Read the Center’s assessment of Afghanistan four years after invasion: