October 3, 2011
Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 744
The Failing U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan
* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI’s South Asia Studies Project (www.memri.org/sasp); Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.
The U.S.’s Afghan strategy is based on two factors: firstly, military victory on the ground, or at least major military gains in areas under Taliban control; and secondly, a policy of engaging the militants by encouraging the Karzai government’s reconciliatory efforts to the Taliban and by holding direct U.S.-Taliban talks.
Reflecting this strategy, a series of American media reports over the past year created a public impression that the U.S. is making gradual progress in negotiations with the Taliban. The U.S. media reports regularly quoted unidentified officials in the government and intelligence establishment to buttress claims of progress. It was expected that these secret talks, along with the military gains in southern Afghanistan, would stabilize the country and propel the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2014.
Contrary to the claims made in the U.S. media, there are question marks on both the military and political fronts.
First, the military gains in southern Afghanistan are minor, and it is unclear whether the U.S. troops can secure such areas for long where some progress against the Taliban has been seen. On their part, the Taliban – supported by the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – are escalating the war by mounting successful attacks in heavily secured areas of Kabul and other cities.
Second, there have been no negotiations with the Taliban on the future of Afghanistan. The U.S. media reports of secret talks on the future of Afghanistan were never true. In fact, it can be argued that the U.S. media, while claiming progress in negotiations with the Taliban, chose to completely ignore a series of statements issued by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s shadow government in the country.