Plotting NATO's endgame in Afghanistan
April 18th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Plotting NATO's endgame in Afghanistan

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's Wolf Blitzer sits down with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an exclusive interview airing Wednesday, April 17 at 4pET on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

By Elise Labott, reporting from the NATO meetings in Brussels, Belgium

Around here its known among North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials as "the jumbo": an annual meeting of foreign and defense ministers of NATO countries. This year the stakes are unusually high.

It's the last big meeting for the alliance before the NATO summit in Chicago next month, where the leaders of countries with troops in Afghanistan will make key decisions about the future of the international coalition's mission there.

This week, the task at hand is to produce a working draft of NATO's Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, which seeks to answer three big questions about how to finish the job in the war-torn nation so countries can bring their troops home by the self-imposed deadline of the end of 2014.

Future sustainability of Afghan security forces: The current target for the Afghan force is around 352,000 army and police. After 2014 that number is expected to dip to about 250,000, with a price of $4.1 billion a year. Discussions are ongoing about how to pay for the upkeep. The United States doesn't want to pay the whole amount and U.S. officials say Washington will be asking European and other International Security Assistance Force allies to pay about $1.3 billion of the bill.

Much has been made of whether the Afghan National Army will be ready to assume full responsibility for security before the 2014 deadline. NATO officials and diplomats say the Afghan National Army is becoming more self-sufficient every week, While the focus was once on merely how to fight, Afghan forces are now being trained in engineering, medical services, special operations and logistics, areas that officials call the "finishing touches" to make the army a fully sustainable force

The changing face of the NATO mission: The goal is for all of Afghanistan to be in some stage of transition to Afghan security leadership by 2013. Rather than leading combat missions, the role of ISAF will be to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. That will require an adjustment to the mission and existing NATO structures in Afghanistan.

The third tranche of areas to be handed over to Afghan security are expected to be more difficult than the previous two, which were in areas where there was a relatively light footprint to begin with. President Hamid Karzai is expected to tackle the more difficult areas before coalition troops begin to withdraw at a steeper rate.

NATO's post-2014 role: In 2010 at the NATO summit in Lisbon, the alliance endorsed a plan for Afghanistan that detailed the remaining work for transition to Afghan leadership before 2014. Diplomats say the key deliverable for Chicago is to lay out what NATO's role in the country will be once that transition is complete and the bulk of coalition forces leave.

The recent Memo of Understanding between the U.S. and Afghan governments, which paves the way for a Strategic Partnership Document between the two nations, left the question of an American military presence beyond 2014 vague. It basically says that if the Afghan government wants an American presence after ISAF forces leave at the end of 2014, the United States will consider it. This is more probable than not, say NATO officials, considering the Afghan Air Force will not be fully functional until at least 2016 and the Afghans will need to rely on outside help for battlefield mobility, fire support and medical/casualty evacuation.

Although NATO's traditional role of building defense capacity will continue, the ISAF mission as we know it will not exist. Nor will the Provisional Reconstruction Teams, which currently have military and development professionals working in tandem on Afghan reconstruction. More of the focus is expected to turn to strengthening Afghan capacity in governance and development in order to consolidate the security gains. Officials point to surveys of Afghan people, which consistently rank jobs, tackling corruption and providing basic services as higher priorities than security, and view an upcoming donor conference in July on tackling these issues as equally important to the security transition.

Last week's bloody attacks on Western targets prove the Taliban still have the will and capability to make life difficult for ISAF and Afghan forces, and are likely to fuel doubts among Afghans about whether their government will prevail against the Taliban when the West withdraws. NATO officials are quick to point out that we are likely to still see an insurgency after 2014.

Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said the goal in Afghanistan should be to defeat the Tablian. But more than a decade into the war, diplomats say the goal is not to destroy the insurgency but to provide a stable environment in Afghanistan so the Taliban and other extremist groups do not pose a threat to the nation.

President Obama, too, abandoned the goal of defeating the Tablian long ago. In his 2009 West Point speech, the president made clear the NATO-led coalition can't kill its way to success in Afghanistan, but needed to give Afghans themselves a stake in their society and the tools to defend their country.

With the clock running out to 2014, the United States and its coalition partners hope the Afghans will have enough of both.

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. keo saengsay

    what was any good thing that the talaban doing to afghanistanian any ways. so did al quaeda leave them kill themself for the love of theirs god allah we can flying back to nuke them time to time if they're coming to harm us at home .can we? and we also trying to weed them out from ours home too , &ey where is Farakarn now? the million men march?

    April 19, 2012 at 8:17 am | Reply
  2. keo saengsay

    what was any good thing that the talaban doing to afghanistanian any ways.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
    • Shaheer

      Two things .... there were no killings at that time and there was no drug .... And US govt. and Western Followers needed some Medicine to Fuck Up the brains of American Nationals and their Europeon counterparts to FuckUp their brains .... Now you tell me ONE good thing Done by Nato ???????? lolz

      April 19, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  3. RCDC

    Here is the end game: Why are we there?

    April 19, 2012 at 7:54 am | Reply
  4. dave

    9/11 came from Saudi Arbia not from shit Afganistan.

    April 19, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply
    • Shaheer

      9/11 came from where ???? my friend wake up now .... Zionists Killed 3000 Americans and after that 300,000 people all over the world and still you are an American Baby growing up on Fanatic Media's Doctorine ....

      April 19, 2012 at 7:32 am | Reply
      • Pinko

        15 Saudis, 1 Lebanese, 1 Egyptian and 2 from the United Arab Emirates. No Israelis. No Zionists.

        See? – its not just Americans who have their heads up their ass. No shortage of competition from the likes of yourself.

        April 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
      • Shaheer

        Its Just Americans who hve put their head in their ass ....... how many other countries invaded afghanistan , iraq , Libya ., Syria and now Iran and North Korea ???????? Shut the fuck up and try to find your brain in your ass ....... Don't blame and attack other countries with your shit Establishment , devilish Corporations and One-Eyed Media .....

        April 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
      • Pinko

        Shaheer, there are no shortage of white folks here in the States whose lives are consumed with hatred. This is nothing to envy. And it sure as hell isn't anything to emulate.

        April 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
      • Shaheer

        You know the best way ..... Americans should be powerful in USA .... and Afghanis should be powerful in Afghanistan and same with iran and pakistan or any other country ..... but if USA want to become more powerful in Pakistan than its people .... and bcoz of misleading of media and religious or cultural or economical grudge people like you justify attack on our countries .... WE KNOW HOW TO DEFEND our freedom ..... and if US govt. is so afraid of some fanatics in other countries that US army is bombing the whole countries ???? is it sane ??? We dont hate US or any other countries people .... live your life and let us live ours .... send all muslims back to their countries if you don't like them but in a peaceful and respected manner ... Thats your country and you hve the right ...

        April 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  5. Rock Maker

    you solve the Afghan problem after dumping Pakistan as the solution. Cut off all the aid, no money, no war.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
    • Shaheer

      US should keep its money to itself .... and stop lieing and poisoning the american's minds with bull shit about our countries .... come out of afghanistan and pakistan and shut the fuck up .... KEEP YOU shit values and culture with you with all your money ,,,,, piece of shit Fedral Reserve is your God ..... Pray to Fed and fuck yourself , americans are hypocrites slaves ....

      April 19, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
    • Shaheer

      US and Europe's Population is being fed with Lies , Frauds , Bank Slavery with a desert of Pig and Alcohol .... lolzzz ... No expections what so ever ...:)

      April 19, 2012 at 7:03 am | Reply
      • dave

        from which country are you?

        April 19, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  6. rk

    only when the beggar terror hub pak is made into a heap of glass will this war end.....

    April 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Reply
    • Shaheer

      Every shit person is Judging the 180 million people of Pakistan with CNN glasses ..... Think bad about Pakistani nation and stop the war if you can ,,,, lolz ..... American Fanatics are making the world a fanatic place .....

      April 19, 2012 at 7:13 am | Reply
    • Shaheer

      Begging is better than robbing ..... NATO is robbing for Bankers ..... and shit heads like you are thinking that only your Devilish govt. (US&Europe) are full of angels ...lolz .....

      April 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  7. Huh?

    Well, once again the US trying to build a little America in the heart of some destabilized, ignorant warring state has failed........instead of continuing to fight these wars like the British did in the 1800s, maybe we should try 21st century warfare...............CIA covert ops, Special Forces and drones...........but then again, all the money the politicians and war contractors are making right now at taxpayer expense wouldn't be as lucrative....

    April 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Reply
    • driht hcier

      How about borrowing methods from WII? Firebombing, anyone? Genocide, anyone?

      Eliminate those who can fight and what do you have?

      April 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Reply
      • Penelope

        An even bigger void to fill?

        April 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  8. Maej


    April 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  9. lal

    If nato can not finish drugs in afghanistan how they going to finish the terrorism

    April 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • Choad

      Let our beloved CIA 'worry' about the drugs.

      They always do what's best.

      April 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • mipolitic

        hey guy this afghan debacle is an obama foreign policy disaster , so do not throw darts at others to deflect the blame away from obama

        April 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
      • Choad

        'Foreign policy disaster', do know that we went into Afghanistan under W, right?

        April 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
      • heywood

        there was a reason we went into Afghanistan. No one should forget that, no one. If only on 9/12/01 we would have nuked them back to the stone age as we should have, we wouldn't be having this discussion

        April 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
      • Choad

        Not for nothing has Afghanistan long been called 'the graveyard of empires'.

        April 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  10. krm1007

    The western nations have no clue what they are doing in Afghanistan and will do in future per se. 10 years+ and they are still fighting who? TBans, Al Qaeda, Afghan nationalists? However, they have probably planted a lot of bugs around China (on Afghan territory) to monitor every aspect of what goes on militarily there. China has also been watching the NATO forces operate closely in Afghanistan and have gathered a lot of cheap intelligence without even fighting a war!

    April 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Reply
    • rk

      dumb paki...the only way to end this war is to make ur beggar state pak into aheap of glass....

      April 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Reply
      • Shaheer

        You are threatening Pakistan for What ????????????? you piece of shit .... think before you speak ..... You pussy hole you think that all the brain is only in your head but i can tell you its SHIT in your head wht you think is your Brilliant Brain ...:)...Just get the fuck out of Our Countries , You will hve to anyway ...:) ....

        April 19, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  11. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    What GWB did wrong was overthrowing a sovereign government, destabilizing an entire country to go after al Qaeda witthout having any sort of dialogue with the Afghan government! And that is the same crap he did in Iraq, destabilizing an entire sovereign nation over lies about WMD's! There are terrorists in America too but should a foreign government plot to attack our government because some terrorist cell in our country carryouts an attack on that country? Let's face it, GWB and the entire GOP are a bunch of incompetent and worthless fools!

    April 18, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  12. Darren Hurst

    Why are troops still there? This was an absolute waste of time and money. The Taliban will be back in control within 72 hrs. of the troops pulling out and will welcome Al Qaeda back to set up training camps. When will people realize that they do not like people in the west and they do not want to live in a peaceful democracy?

    April 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  13. Rod C. Venger

    What endgame? You go to war and you fight until someone loses the war. The loser is determined by who is either no longer willing or no longer able to fight. The idea is to settle an issue or settle a score...whatever. The leaving, the US not only is the loser but also leaves the issue...and the score...unsettled. It therefore will have to be addressed sometime in the future. The Taliban are not going to go away. Karzai will die shortly after the US departs...if not before...and the Taliban will again take power. The retaliation they unleash on the Afghan people will not be pleasant and will probably be ignored by Obama. The only way to solve any of this is to pacify the country. It may not be politically correct but it's a must-do.

    April 18, 2012 at 10:51 am | Reply
  14. HPUCK

    Just simply get the hel%#$ out ! 10 freaky years, thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars. Enough is enough ! Don't give them another dime. Karzia will just use it to get out of the country once we leave. How stupid can the US government, both Bush and Obama be?

    April 18, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • RetiredVet

      I agree with you 100%.

      April 18, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • RetiredVet2

      I disagree with you 100%.

      April 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • keo saengsay

      leave them killing themself and take ours sons and daughters home. vote for Ron Paul so we all can pay back the money that we owed to the chiness sooner.and we still have mores musrooms headed at home to fight with dont you think so?

      April 19, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
  15. mipolitic

    wisdom and common sence must never be confused with obama foreign policy

    April 18, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      No, they should be CONFUSED with GWB because that is what he was when he invaded and destabilized Iraq and attacked and overthrew the Taliban government instead of working with it to root out the terrorists in its country!

      April 18, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
      • Pippa

        @ Blaa Blaa That would be the Taliban government that allowed al Quaeda to train its terrorists in Afghan training camps and refused to surrender OBL for 9/11. While the two entities are separate, neither are friendly or cooperative towards the US.

        With the primary objective of killing OBL accomplished, the US should declare victory and withdraw. But then there are those pesky Lithium deposits that will keep us there forever:

        Blaa Blaa, get a clue...

        April 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  16. kristinakaye

    Who are the T A B L I A N ???

    April 18, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • dave

      raised and supported by USA

      April 19, 2012 at 7:15 am | Reply
      • Shaheer

        Stop thinking that US Zoinst Banker's war regime is god ..... Try to feel free of that shit .... may be you will know then WHO are Taliban .... 🙂

        April 19, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  17. michaelfury

    "President Obama, too, abandoned the goal of defeating the Tablian long ago"

    Defeating the "Tablian" was never the goal.

    April 18, 2012 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      Love you guys who have a blog who think they are experts, pertinent, or even writers......

      April 18, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      The Taliban is not the enemy simply because the Taliban is not al Qaeda! When GWB invaded Afghanistan he attacked the wrong regime!

      April 18, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
      • RetiredVet2

        Blah Blah: You wrote that when George Bush ordered the invasion of Aghanistan he attacked the wrong regime. What would have been the correct regime to attack? Sweden? Ecuador? The 9/11 attacks on this country came from Afghanistan, where the government - the regime - supported Al Quaeda and refused to cooperate with the U.S. in the American efforts to defend itself against further attacks against the American homeland. Whatever one may say about the war turning into an indecisive ten-year engagement, the initial attack on Afghanistan did not then, and does not now, seem unreasonable.

        April 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
      • heywood

        Hate to confuse you with facts, but the taliban were enablers for al quieda. This time they need to understand that if this stupidity happens again we destroy their country and kill every living thing that moves in the country. only then will they understand.

        April 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

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