Bringing ‘Sustainable Security’ To Afghanistan

The Washington Post reports that General David Petraeus — warning that Afghanistan “is going to be the longest campaign of the long war” — has undertaken “a major reassessment of U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the surrounding region.”

The 100-day assessment will result in a new campaign plan for the Middle East and Central Asia, a region in which Petraeus will oversee the operations of more than 200,000 American troops as the new head of U.S. Central Command, beginning Oct. 31.

The review will formally begin next month, but experts and military officials involved said Petraeus is already focused on at least two major themes: government-led reconciliation of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the leveraging of diplomatic and economic initiatives with nearby countries that are influential in the war.[…]

“When you look at a lot of these problems, you see considerable regional connections,” Petraeus said yesterday. The effort would embrace all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and possibly extend to India, which has had a long-standing rivalry with Pakistan. “There may be opportunities with respect to India,” he said.


In a speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace today, Defense Secretary Gates also stressed the need for “a better integrated approach” to stabilizing Afghanistan:

“To be successful, the entirety of the NATO alliance, the European Union, NGOs, and other groups — the full panoply of military and civilian elements — must better integrate and coordinate with one another and also with the Afghan government,” [Gates] said.

“Afghanistan is the test, on the grandest scale, of what we are trying to achieve when it comes to integrating the military and civilian, the public and private, the national and international.”[…]

Gates’ speech was the latest in a series advocating a more intelligent use of non-military instruments of power to deal with instability in poor and failing states.

The Center for American Progress has advocated this kind of integrated conception of security, outlined in a series of reports on “Sustainable Security.”

Leading in this new world will require a fundamental shift from our outdated notion of national security to a more modern concept of sustainable security — that is, our security as defined by the contours of a world gone global and shaped by our common humanity. Sustainable security combines three approaches:

– National security, or the safety of the United States- Human security, or the well-being and safety of people- Collective security, or the shared interests of the entire world

CAP Senior Fellow Gayle Smith explains:


Sustainable security is a modern theory about how to keep American safe. Basically, what it is is the combination of national security as we’ve always understood it, defending and protecting the United States from an external threat; Of collective security, or the security of all the countries in the world against and in the face of those kinds of threats like climate change, like money laundering, like the international drug trade, pandemics. And the third is human security, or the security of people, regardless of states, the half of the world population that lives under two dollars a day, the security of people would be human security.

So it’s those three things: national security, collective security, and human security.