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Afghanistan After the Drawdown

Authors: Seth G. Jones, Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation, and Keith Crane, Director, Environment, Energy, and Economic Development program, RAND Corporation

Afghanistan After the Drawdown - seth-g-jones-and-keith-crane-afghanistan-after-the-drawdown
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date November 2013

54 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-574-4
Council Special Report No. 67


Following the recent endorsement of the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a new CFR report from the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) outlines the composition, role, and rationale for the roughly ten thousand U.S. troops that will possibly remain in the country after the 2014 drawdown. RAND Corporation's Seth G. Jones and Keith Crane explain in a new Council Special Report how the United States should manage the complex political, security, and economic challenges that will accompany the reduction in U.S. and allied forces. They argue for a force of eight to twelve thousand troops to assist Afghan national security forces and prevent a resurgence of al-Qaeda.

"The United States has made an enormous expenditure of blood and treasure in Afghanistan since 9/11. Though not readily apparent to an American public weary of more than a decade of fighting, important gains have nevertheless been achieved to make Afghanistan a better place." The authors warn, however, that "these gains are reversible" and cite risks such as the continued expansion of al-Qaeda and affiliates, regional instability, increased radicalization in Pakistan, and a perception by allies and enemies alike that the U.S. commitment is unreliable.

The report specifies two main missions for the remaining U.S. troops and maintains that the commitment should not be open-ended. A majority should be assigned to train, advise, and assist Afghan national and local forces. Smaller numbers of troops should be tasked specifically with conducting strikes against terrorists by killing or capturing high-value targets, working with high-end Afghan forces in Taliban-controlled areas, and using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and occasional strike missions.

The authors also assert that focusing on regional dynamics is essential to Afghan stability. The United States should rely less on Pakistan to help in accomplishing its goals in Afghanistan, while tying U.S. military assistance to Islamabad to its efforts to combat militant groups.

Jones and Crane make additional recommendations to support the diminished U.S. military presence beginning in 2014:

  • foster a realistic peace process that includes supporting Afghan government–led discussions with the Taliban over prisoner exchange, local cease-fires, and reintegration of combatants
  • encourage multiethnic coalitions during the 2014 presidential elections
  • work with international donors to sustain funding levels for Afghan education, health, and infrastructure
  • support regional economic integration, including the transit of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline through Afghan territory, as well as détente between India and Pakistan

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More About This Publication

Seth G. Jones is associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, as well as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He served as the representative to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations for the commander, U.S. Special Operations Command. Before that, he served as a plans officer and adviser to the commanding general, U.S. Special Operations Forces, in Afghanistan (Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command–Afghanistan). He is the author of Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa'ida after 9/11 and In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan, which won the 2010 Council on Foreign Relations Silver Medal for Best Book of the Year. He is also the author of The Rise of European Security Cooperation. Jones has published articles in a range of journals, such as Foreign Policy and International Security, as well as in such newspapers and magazines such as Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and various RAND publications. He received his AB from Bowdoin College and his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago.

Keith Crane is director of the RAND environment, energy, and economic development program as well as a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. In fall 2003, he served as an economic policy adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Prior to rejoining RAND in February 2002, he was chief operating officer and director of research at PlanEcon, Inc., a research and consulting firm based in Washington, DC, focusing on central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. During his tenure at PlanEcon, Crane provided analysis and economic forecasts used in over one hundred major investments in the region. He writes extensively on transition issues in policy and academic journals, and briefs high-level decision-makers. Crane received his BA from the University of Minnesota and his MA and PhD in economics from Indiana University.

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