Second Annual Members’ Conference – Afghanistan Beyond 2011: How do we get it right?

Summary of the breakout conversation “Afghanistan Beyond 2011: How do we get it right?” at the 2010 Annual Members’ Conference.


Clare Lockhart, Co-Founder and CEO, Institute for State Effectiveness
John Tien, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, National Security Staff, Executive Office of the President, the White House
Moderated by Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council


This discussion focused on the U.S. and NATO strategy in Afghanistan and what steps need to be taken by international forces and by the Afghan Government in achieving success – a stable Afghanistan. While opinions vary on many aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan, a consensus does seem to exist that the solution to “getting it right” cannot consist purely of military force. 

How does Afghanistan, under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai, get it right?  In addition to building credible security forces, it will be essential to achieve political order – reaching agreement on the rules of the game and respecting the Constitution and consensus among social groups, internally, regionally, and globally, by addressing their real concerns.  In addition, the government will need to determine how basic services to the Afghans, particularly in rural areas, can be delivered.  Economic self-sufficiency will also drive Afghanistan towards stability and a framework for governance will be essential.  That would include developing a framework of governance for the mineral wealth that the country sits on, looking beyond Karzai (who will be his successor?), and determining how other leading figures in Afghanistan, such as Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Amrullah Saleh, who have weight and talent, can come together and form a team.  

It will also be important for the Afghan Government to determine how to devolve responsibility.  Which function will be performed at what level?  What is the capability of the Afghan civil service?  (How many professional exist right now and what is needed?)  What are the needs within the education system?  (Currently there is only $35 million allocated for education in all of Afghanistan.) 

The U.S. Government faces an increasingly skeptical Congress and domestic public, and continues to seek an end state that involves reduced manpower and resources from the United States.  While many similarities exist between Afghanistan and Iraq, including the leadership of General Patraeus earlier this year, the challenge has been difficult in Afghanistan, with global security forces facing resistance from President Karzai. The U.S. will not back off, but will need to be realistic. In addition, Europe’s perception of the war, which differs from the US, is also an important consideration for the success of short and long term efforts in the country and region.

-Summary by Shikha Bhatnagar, Associate Director, South Asia Center

This session was held under Atlantic Council Rules, defined by President and CEO Frederick Kempe as “Chatham House Rules with military enforcement.”