Afghanistan is a big country. So in addition to the question of how many resources should be sent to Afghanistan, there’s the question of where they should go. Recently, the tendency has been to throw additional resources at the parts of the country where things are worse. In his latest Carnegie Endowment report “Fixing a Failed Strategy in Afghanistan”, Gilles Dorronsoro argues that this would be a big mistake. The resources being contemplated, he argues, aren’t enough to win the war in the South. Sending them there would merely guarantee that we also lose the war in the North and the East, without making much progress in the South.
Instead, he prefers to adopt a more defensive posture in the South—securing main cities where the Taliban is disliked—and focus our attention on winning what he regards as the more winnable struggles in the North and East where the Taliban is making gains but isn’t deeply intertwined with local communities. I can’t really assess how true this analysis is, but he certainly seems to make a strong case. This also accords with my sense that the best case for staying in Afghanistan isn’t really scare stories about al-Qaeda but simply the fact that we have something of a moral obligation to help anti-Taliban Afghans defend themselves. That means in the first instance focusing both our troops and our reconstruction money on the places where we’re wanted.