Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 53

AFGHANISTAN ENDGAME CH-47 Chinook crew chief Staff Sgt. Joey Barnard of Savannah, Georgia, loads a pallet of humanitarian supplies for distribution to snowbound villages in eastern Afghanistan, 15 February 2005. stems from numerous factors, including the future of the bilateral security agreement with the United States, the results of the April 2014 presidential election, and potential foreign policy actions of states such as Pakistan, India, China, and Iran in 2015 and beyond. American policymakers and senior military officers are united in their wish to ensure the survival of the Afghan regime beyond 2014. Yet, there is currently no consensus on the policies that would help achieve success. To develop guidance and to identify actions U.S. strategy should avoid, academics, experts, and policymakers sometimes compare the drawdown in Afghanistan to the U.S. withdrawals from Iraq and Vietnam. This article offers the view that a more helpful analogy for Afghanistan would be the U.S. withdrawal from Cambodia in the 1970s. Although the situation and the cultural context in Cambodia in the 1970s and those in Afghanistan today are not identical, there are certain key similarities. A careful analysis of Cambodia’s five-year civil war and eventual collapse—focusing on 1973 to 1975, when the United States drastically reduced its MILITARY REVIEW  September-October 2014 support—illustrates what may be a sure path to failure in Afghanistan. Conversely, a study of Vietnam-era policy toward Cambodia may help inform policies to make Afghanistan succeed. In short, the circumstances contributing to the collapse of the Cambodian regime in 1975 suggest that U.S. policy for Afghanistan should avoid a complete withdrawal of U.S. military advisors and troops (known as the zero option), as well as a reduction to little or no U.S. funding and advising for the Afghanistan government or military. Without sustained U.S. aid and military advising, Afghanistan is likely to go the way of Cambodia. Therefore, if the United States settles upon a policy intended to enable the resilience, stability, and long-term survival of Afghanistan’s regime after 2014, that policy must include, at a minimum, a strong commitment to provide U.S. military advisors and funding for its government and military for the next decade. A general similarity between the situations in Cambodia and Afghanistan is the continued, but declining, provision of U.S. military and financial support to a fragile central government after a major inflection point (a turning point that results in a dramatic U.S. Air Force photo from the National Museum of the USAF Spc. Claudia K. Bullard, 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment uestions about the long-term viability of the Afghan government and its ability to resist Taliban incursions are becoming more serious in light of the quickly declining number of U.S. and international troops in that country. Insecurity in Afghanistan A U.S. Air Force Fairchild C-123K Provider from the 309th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 315th Tactical Airlift Wing supporting ground operations in Cambodia between April and July 1970. change). For the Cambodians, this inflection point was the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. For the Afghans, the change began with the ongoing drawdown in 2014. In the case of Cambodia, the central government faced a highly motivated, ideologically based enemy 51