Steve Coll, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars and now President of the New America Foundation, has just published a Policy Brief – “Can NATO Rethink its Exit Strategy from Afghanistan?” – with the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa. After reviewing other historical precedents of international withdrawal from Afghanistan, Coll reviews the six major assumptions of NATO’s transition plan and then explains why some demand reconsideration. One key yet dubious assumption is that NATO can build an effective security sector and reach planned force levels by 2014. Coll argues that this assumptions relies too heavily on the experience of Iraq where donors were able to rapidly build up the security sector, but in large part because it was already well established under Saddam Hussein. This condition is starkly missing in Afghanistan where the security sector has been marked by fragmentation, conflict and disarray since 1975. Ultimately Coll argues for adjustment of NATO’s strategy, but also raises the question of ‘plan B’ in the event of its failure.
The Policy Brief is based on a presentation Coll delivered at CIPS on February 27, which can be viewed here.