Small Wars Journal


Foreign Affairs on Iraq and Afghanistan

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 7:21am

The venerable Foreign Affairs offers two pieces worth clicking through to.

First, Ivo Daalder has a discussion with Gideon Rose and Rachel Bronson on the NATO summit.


First, with regard to Afghanistan, we took stock of the transition process and agreed it was on track. And indeed, the leaders of the 50 ISAF countries decided that there was a next phase in this transition process, that by the middle of 2013 we would reach a milestone at which every district and province in Afghanistan would have started the transition process, meaning that the Afghan security forces would be in the lead for security. And as a result, the ISAFs -- the Afghanistan international mission would shift from a combat role to a support role. ...

Then by the end of 2014, we should be in a position in which Afghan forces are fully responsible for security, and enable the ISAF mission that has been in place since 2004 to end. So we agreed here that we are winding down the war, as President Obama put it yesterday.

We also looked at what post-2014 or post-transition commitment NATO should make. 

Second, Paul McGeough writes on the struggle to succeed Iraqi Shi'a Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani.


As Sistani ages, a struggle to succeed him has begun, putting the spiritual leadership of one of the world's foremost faiths in play. But with neighboring Iran moving to install its preferred candidate in the position, the secular political foundations of Iraq's fledgling democracy are at risk. Consequently, what amounts to a spiritual showdown could pose a challenge to Washington's hope for postwar Iraq to serve as a Western-allied, moderate, secular state in the heart of the Middle East. 

Shia doctrine requires that an incumbent die before jockeying can begin in a succession process that is as opaque as it is informal. But Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the 64-year-old cleric who is widely seen as Tehran's preferred choice, has jumped the gun by sending an advance party to open an office in Najaf.

Promises to Keep?

Sat, 05/12/2012 - 8:58am

In an essay at Foreign Affairs, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon asks if we truly understand the costs of the promises we have made in Afghanistan, even given the 2014 withdrawal timeline.


The administration must come clean about what international forces can and can't execute before world leaders assemble later this month at the NATO summit in Chicago to discuss the future of Afghanistan. If this gathering is to be more than an exchange of lofty speeches and question-riddled commitments, it is time to take a hard and realistic look at the promises that the United States and others are making to Afghanistan -- and whether they are too big to keep.

...In [the recently signed strategic agreement with Afghanistan], Obama affirmed the United States' commitment to direct financial support to Afghanistan's economic development. But whether the U.S. Congress will continue to underwrite such funding is far from certain, since dollars will have to be approved each year through the traditional congressional appropriations process. Presumably there will be no funding workaround possible, since Overseas Contingency Operations funding will likely end in 2014. ...

In the United States, the war's popularity has fallen steadily since Obama entered office, reaching a nadir in April, when only 30 percent of Americans polled said that the war in Afghanistan "has been worth fighting." In the coming months, and, should he win a second term, the coming years, Obama will have to expend political capital to convince the American public that the billions poured into South Asia are an investment in global security, not a zero-sum game that needlessly depletes already strained U.S. coffers, as so many of his own party have argued.

Read it all here.