Trump’s New Afghanistan Strategy
The purpose of this paper is to look at the freshly released outline of the new American strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This strategy was described only in the most general terms, but even these still have some implications. The focus of the paper will be on the question what does the new strategy mean for American allies in NATO and especially the younger members in Central Europe.
- The strategy of the U.S. for Afghanistan and South Asia is based on three premises about the American goals in Afghanistan: an outcome must be worth the investment made so far, a rapid exit is unacceptable, and the security problems that the U.S. face in the area are without equal anywhere else in the world.
- Changes from the previous strategy can be summed up in two brackets: in internal and external policy.
- Internal strategy change brings a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. The army will be given greater decision-making freedom but overall the change is not revolutionary.
- External strategy change seeks to deal with Pakistan, especially the issue of its granting of safe havens to militants and terrorists. It seeks to reconstruct the Afghan government and further develop U.S. strategic partnership with India.
But Trump’s promises run contrary to his pre-election views and are accompanied by unsupportive policies, like his planned cuts for the Department of State and the USAID.
What are the consequences of the new strategy for NATO Allies in Central Europe? And what are the other contradictions in the new American strategy for the war in Afghanistan?
Read the full paper here
Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum as a source of instability
THE NEXT BIG THING
While the attention of the world’s public is focused on the so-called Islamic State and the Syrian Civil War, another possible destabilisation is going on in the Middle East, namely in the Iraqi Kurdistan. On September 25, a referendum is going to take place with a simple question: “Do you want the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the Kurdish areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?“. The outcome of the referendum seems to be evident: a clear majority of both political parties and the general population of Iraqi Kurdistan prefers independence. However, the consequences of the referendum may have very negative impact on the region.
Firstly, the referendum was not prepared in cooperation with the Iraqi government and it is going to take place also in the Kirkuk, Sinjar, Makhmour, and Khanaqin regions. The control of these areas has been a subject of dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraqi federal government, but as a result of the invasion of the so-called Islamic State, Kurds gained control over them. The referendum will surely worsen relations between the KRG and Iraqi government since there are already other disputed topics, such as the oil revenues. Still, the referendum may not automatically lead to a declaration of independence, but it can be used as a leverage during negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad. Initially, the independence vote was announced back in 2014, but it has been postponed on several occasions. It is still possible that the vote may not take place if the federal government in Baghdad gives concessions to the KRG.
Three of Iraq’s neighbours, Syria, Iran, and Turkey, have expressed severe concerns about the referendum for an obvious reason: all these countries have Kurdish minorities that struggle for independence. Similar to their counterparts in Iraq, Syrian Kurds established a de facto autonomous region of Rojava as a result of the Syrian Civil War. For Syrian government, the referendum is a dangerous precedent. Turkey and Iran, in their turn, must deal with a decades-long Kurdish insurgency. Apart from that, Iran has gained considerable influence in Iraqi politics, economy, and society since Saddam Hussein’s regime fell. Iraq became basically a client state of Iran, as well as a huge market for Iranian goods. It also serves as a bridge connecting Iran with its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Therefore, any weakening of Iraqi government’s control over the country’s territory threatens Iranian interests.
Although there has been a cooperation between Turkey and KRG since the 1990’s, Turkish officials stated clearly that they will not respect the referendum results and that they wish to preserve Iraqi territorial integrity. This is understandable because apart from the ongoing PKK insurgency, there was also a shift in the attitude of the ruling party AKP to the Kurdish issue after the general elections in June 2015. In those elections, pro-Kurdish HDP entered Turkish Parliament and AKP lost the majority in Turkish National Assembly. Before the elections, AKP had a constructive approach to the Kurdish issue and initiated peace talks with the PKK. After it became obvious that majority of Kurds still preferred HDP to the AKP, Erdogan’s party switched its focus from Kurds to nationalistic segments of the Turkish population. Kurdish rebellion in the southeast of Turkey started anew after the peace process finally crashed in July 2015. AKP regained a parliamentary majority in November 2015 early elections and closely cooperated with a nationalistic MHP. AKP’s decision to appeal to Turkish nationalists means that it cannot accept any form of Kurdish autonomy in the territory of Turkey or its neighbours. The chairman of the MHP even stated that the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum may serve as a “casus belli”.
Western countries are not in favour of the referendum either, pointing out that it is unilateral and that it may bring instability and hinder the military efforts against the so-called Islamic State. However, their attitude is not unified, as many countries have expressed respect to the right to self-determination of the Iraqi Kurds and in general they do not oppose the referendum as strongly as Iraq’s neighbours. In the case of Turkey, the differences in attitudes may contribute to the already considerable divide between Turkey and other NATO members, and fuel anti-western sentiment among the population.
Neither Iraqi Kurds nor the region as a whole will gain much from the referendum. Although it can still be postponed on the last moment, it has already increased tension between Erbil and Baghdad, as well as Iraq’s neighbours. If the referendum really takes place, it will spark a political conflict that can erupt into violence. Independent Iraqi Kurdistan may end up isolated and wrecked by internal conflicts. While military intervention by some of Iraq’s neighbours is unlikely at least for now, the referendum will definitely cause instability in the region. Despite all these factors, Iraqi Kurds, as well as their leadership, are willing to pursue independence at all costs.
Author: Martin Dudáš
Rotational Deployments vs. Forward Stationing: How Can the Army Achieve Assurance and Deterrence Efficiently and Effectively?
John R. Deni
STRATPOL Brief Review
The recent monograph published by Strategic Studies Institute at U.S. Army War College deals with the ever-present problem of successfully achieving assurance and deterrence through the deployment of armed forces. With the continuation of the war in Ukraine and the persistent threat posed by Russia toward the Eastern members of NATO, the issue is as relevant as it could ever be.
The author builds his argument on the assumption that the U.S. Army’s force posture is out of balance today, with insufficient units and soldiers stationed overseas. According to him, the situation has changed drastically in recent years. Since the end of the Cold War—during which hundreds of thousands of soldiers were stationed overseas—the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of a U.S.- stationed Army. This solution is yielding an over-reliance on rotational deployments for continuous heel-to-toe presence to achieve deterrence and assurance effectively and at reasonable, sustainable cost. The author’s assessment is the result of a 10-month study examining the costs and benefits, defined broadly, of rotational deployments versus forward stationing.
The author recommends following measures to achieve successful reassurance of its European allies and successful deterrence of Russia:
- The Army should forward station in Europe, for example, an Armored brigade combat team (ABCT) as well as combat aviation, air defense, and division-level command and control units and related enablers.
- U. S. forces forward-stationed in Poland (in whole or in part through split-basing) would provide greater assurance to Eastern Europe and more effectively deter aggression than rotational forces. Therefore, notwithstanding the restrictions imposed by the NATO-Russia Founding Act and taking into consideration the significant changes in Russian foreign policy, security strategy, and force posture over the 2 decades since the signing of the Act; the DoD should pursue a policy of forward stationing additional force structure in Poland.
- If forward stationing of additional, appropriate force structure cannot be achieved in Poland, forward stationing in Germany is a cost-effective alternative. It would bolster assurance and deterrence through the return of armor, combat aviation, fires, command and control, and other critical enablers to Central Europe.
Full monograph is available here
Author: Samuel Žlinčík
Responsible editor: Ondřej Zacha
Trump delivering remarks about strategy in Afghanistan | Source: U.S. Department of Defence
New Era of Middle Eastern Wars | Source: U.S. Department of Defence; STRATPOL
U.S. Army soldiers drive an M-1A1 Abrams tank through a German town north of Frankfurt, Germany | Source: Wikimedia Commons (U.S. Army)
STRATPOL ViewPoints is a project which seeks to address the most important international politics and security affairs of today. In every issue, you can find a Policy Paper, thought provoking opinion piece, and a brief review of a recent study from well-known research centers and think-tanks worldwide.