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CSIS: The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?

Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington
July 22, 2009


A report examining the feasibility and probability of success for U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

There are no certainties in war, and the tasks that NATO/ISAF and the US must perform in Afghanistan go far beyond the normal limits of counterinsurgency. They are the equivalent of armed nation building at a time when Afghanistan faces major challenges from both its own insurgents and international movements like Al Qa'ida, and must restructure its government and economy after 30 years of nearly continuous conflict.

It is also a war that must be won after years in which member countries, particularly the Untied States, failed to react to the seriousness of the emerging insurgency. They failed to provide the proper level of resources and coordination, placed serious national caveats and limits on the use of their forces and resources, and let the enemy take the initiative for more than half a decade. Compounded with the weaknesses in the Afghan government, this created a situation where the war now has five, not one, centers of gravity:

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