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tv   U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan  CSPAN  November 20, 2017 5:23pm-6:58pm EST

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hooked." >> we know the dangers of technology. we don't say things like we've built in special mechanisms designed to hook people therefore we don't want our kids hooked. that's the sense you get. basically never get high on your own supply. if you are creating something you know what the dangers are, you want to make sure other people you love and hold dear are not going to be affected by them. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. recently, two combat veterans joined national security experts in a discussion on u.s. military strategy in afghanistan. at the kato institute in washington, d.c. the panelists discussed the current situation in afghanistan and whether a negotiated settlement or removing u.s. troops was an appropriate option moving forward. this is about 90 minutes. >> good morning. i'm christopherpreble, vice
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president for foreign policies here at the kato institute. thank you for being here today and the outstanding conference stuff who do a terrific job organizing our many events. welcome also to those of you watching at c-span and online at kato.org. following the september 11 terrorist attacks in october 2001 the united states issued combat operations inside afghanistan and against the taliban government that had harbored the terrorist there is. the ensuing 16 years, u.s. goals have changed marginally but they typically include defeating al qaeda and other terrorist groups with global reach, strengthening the afghan government and security forces to prevent the taliban from retaking political power and denying terrorists a safe haven. aassessments are mixed at best.
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in june secretary of state james mattis stated "we are not winning in afghanistan right now." estimates what have we spent prang from $840 billion to over $2 trillion plus over 2300 u.s. troops killed and another 20,000 wounded. recent reported by the special inspector general for afghan reconstruction noted the united states trained afghan security forces but concluded the effort had been hampered by corruption and inadequate oversight and the afghan government is struggling to defeat the taliban. several years ago the government controled about 70% of the country. today that figure is down to about 60%. in late august, of course, president trump announced a modest u.s. troop surge and pledgeded to turn things around, in his speech the president acknowledged that americans were "weary of war without victory."
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he's right. many americans seem unwilling to walk away but an equal number or so are reluctant to continue the war. indefinitely u.s. strategy reflecting the public's mood, remains a work in progress. what better time then to discuss the way forward in afghanistan. can the united states win as president trump promised to do, and at what cost? if vikt i have too costly, can a negotiated settlement bring peace to afghanistan? what are the risks of u.s. withdrawal? can americans secure our vital interest without a permanent presence in the region or should we be prepared for an open-ended commitment on the lines of the dekoid deployments in germany, japan and south korea? we have an excellent panel here today to consider these and other questions.
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u.s. army major maxwell pappas. 2006 graduate of the u.s. academy the west point, he served a combat tour in iraq late 2007 to early 2009, followed by three combat tours in afghanistan in 2010, 2011 and 2013. pappas completed army ranger training in 2007 and was then assigned to the 25th infantry division during the iraq surge. he went to zabul province in afghanistan as a member of the reconstruction team in 2010, returned to the states to complete additional training at ft. bening georgia and assigned the 10th mountain division, he commanded in kandahar province and paktika province. he earned a masters degree in security studies from georgetown university in 2016 and graduated from the army's general staff college at ft. lech worth, kansas, earlier this year. executive officer of the 4th battalion 3rd infantry regiment,
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also known as the old guard at arlington cemetery. following major pappas' remarks we'll hear from our three other distinguished panelists. michael ohanlon is a senior fellow at the brookings institution and director of research at brookings and adjunct professor at columbia, princeton and syracuse universities and the university of denver. he's a member of the international institute for strategic studies and external advisory board to the central intelligence agency from 2011 to 2012. mike is the author of many books including "the future of land warfare" published in 2015, "healing the wounded giant, maintaining military preimminence while cutting the defense budget" and "toughing it out in afghanistan" published in 2010. he's written three martial papers from brookings foreign policy program. i'd like to put in a special plug for "beyond nato, i new security architecture for eastern europe" published earl
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quer this year. he's published several hundred op-eds in the major newspapers and appeared on television or radio more than 3,000 times since 2001 if he looks familiar to you, he should. mike earned a ph.d. in public international affairs from princeton. our second speaker today is steven bidle, professor of political science international affairs at george washington university. he's published widely writing mostly about how modern social science can inform defense policy. his book "military power, explaining victory and defeat in mod he were battle" published by princeton in 2004 won four prizes including harvard's huntington prize and the council on foreign relations arthur ross award silver medal. he published articles in international security, foreign affairs, survival and the journal of strategic studies and shorter articles in the "new york times," "washington post," "wall street journal" and many others. professor biddle testified many times before congress including on the wars in iraq and
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afghanistan. in 2007 he served on general david petraeus' joint strategic assessment team in baghdad, on general mccrystal's assessment team in kabul in 2009 and senior adviser to command assessment team in washington in 2008 and 2009. he was awarded the u.s. army superior civilian service medal in 2003 and 2006, and was presented with the u.s. army commander's award for public service in baghdad in 2007. steve holds a ph.d. from harv d harvard. our final speaker is my colleague eric goepner, visiting research fellow in cato's foreign defense studies department. retired colonel u.s. air force, unit commands in afghanistan, iraq and the pacific region. his research interests include national security, civil war, terrorism, and trauma. he has published in "the washington post," parameters, "newsweek" and the national interest, among other outlets. eric is a doctoral candidate at
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george mason university school of policy and government. he meefd m.a.s from george washington university and the air command and staff college. he is the coauthor with trevor thrall of two cato papers including "step back, lessons for u.s. foreign policy from the failed war on terror" which is available in hard copy for those of you here in attendance, and online for those of you watching from afar. i should also note that we've made available in the foyer recent articles on afghanistan by mike o han lon and steve b biddle. eric, who organized this event and deserves all the credit would like to begin by telling you about major pappas' deployment in afghanistan and major. lass will take it from there. >> major. pa pappas and i served in afghanistan. 2010, in afghanistan, imagine
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the banjos playing off in the distance for those fans of "deliverance." we're playing the world's best video game for a combat setting, which is? call of duty, correct. major pappas is winning. it's him, me and two other colleagues and in comes the senior nco from our operations center and announces they've detected three insurgents, 1200 meters outside of why you are base implanting an ied, putting a bomb in the road and we go through the checklist of different things we could do and none of them make any sense, because they're not going to get there in time, may cause civilian casualties for villagers that live nearby or otherwise our presence would be announced too early and they would be gone. max comes up with a completely tactically unsound plan, if it was anybody, except for max, and his plan is this. we know we have three insurgents that we've identified. so i'm going to take a team of myself and three guys, we're going to go out with four against an enemy force that we know has at least three, and we assume of course there's going to be other insurgents out
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there, kind of screening their position for them, but because max is max, i readily agree and i say thank that sounds great. why don't do you that. 8:45 at night, pitch black, heart of summer. max is going to don his 65 pounds of battle rattle. 65 pounds of gear is on him and his three teammates, night vision goggles or on. if you have never worn them, you have zero depth perception. max is going to traverse more than a mile because you can't go in a straight line toward the enemy that, would be unsound, up and down a riverbed, and about two-thirds of the way, because i should tell you i'm where old men go in combat, the operations center. al' watching this on our thermal imaging device, watching max cruising along and two-thirds of the way to making contact with the enemy force and i see max leave two of his teammates. so now you understand it's max and one man, going against three known insurgents. i'm not going to bother asking him any questions because i figure his stress level is probably pretty high, he's running with 65 pounds of gear,
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dead of night, and he knows he's about to have a lethal encounter with three other human beings. shortly thereafter, the stillness of the zabul summer night erupts. when the night concludes, max and his team have wounded one insurgent, they've detained a second insurgent, third one got away to fight another day. we've safely detonated the ied so no harm will come to afghans or american forces, and there's no casualties whatsoever to u.s. forces that night. so may i introduce the audacious and soon to find out intelligent maxwell pappas, major, u.s. army. >> thanks a lot for the introduction. i hope i can absolutely live up to that hype. so i'm here first of all as a citizen here to discuss some of my experiences. 18 months total in afghanistan in order to share a tactical perspective, highlight some of the challenges that are in place actually implementing the policies that we discussed in
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places like this, when it gets down to the person on the ground, it's not necessarily as clean and easy to do as we like to think it is sometimes at the higher levels. so first of all, before we begin, anything i discuss here doesn't represent a sort of official line from the u.s. government, doesn't, not the official views of the army, the department of defense, so i just wanted to start off with just that. so what i would say is, anybody who's pretty well versed in foreign policy right now knows about the wars in afghanistan and understands that fm 3-24 counter insurgency published in 2006 by general petraeus serves as a guide for the surge in iraq, the 2010 time line we thought was going fairly well. also serves as kind of the our guidelines for strategy in afghanistan. it focuses on separating insurgents from the populous, focuses on training host nations, security forces a dressing grievances usually through improvement of governance and transitioning that authority back to locals.
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so what i'm going to talk about just a little bit my experience is 2010, '11 and '13, is mostly on the tactical side, support to governance, improving that governance while i was deployed on the provincial reconstruction team to zabul province and when i was deployed to paktika province as company commander two years later. perspecti perspective, this is in may of 2010, i'm sitting, going to a small village, pasani, 500 to 1,000 people live there. four or five miles out of the district capital and we were just ambushed and i'm outside trying to direct fire, trying to convince afghans they want to shoot in this direction, as opposed to that direction in order to make sure we are able to survive the day and i see my counterpart at the time, person i was assigned to, abdul kayum, he was 50 years old. he had fought the russians allegedly and then he had continued to survive in afghanistan, which on its own is
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an accomplishment to the ripe old age of 50, so he was the district leader, sorry, the district chief for the sadjwe district in zabul province. he comes over to me while we're getting shot at and yells me at something in pashti. i have no idea what he says because i don't speak the langua language. my interpreter comes up and he says it again and he laughs. he thinks it's funny. he goes "sir, he says he doesn't think that we're welcome here." [ laughter ] i said that is the story of most of my time in afghanistan. so we were trying to accomplish right there is the implementation of this policy, the support to governance. as we began to deploy in february that year, into afghanistan, on this prove dinnial reconstruction team what, we determined was probably the place that we could make the
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most money, was in terms of connecting the lowest part of the government of afghanistan at the district level to those cultural and tribal leaders that existed throughout afghanistan, had existed as the way it had been governed for probably millennia. so as part of that connection thi thing we talked about touch points. making sure that when we interacted with afghans or as advisers we interacted with our afghan counterparts we maximized that time, built that personal relationship which made our opinion matter, gave us additional chances to impart any sort of information we had onto these people so we could be successful in afghanistan. the other part of that was improving the touch time between that lowest level of the government and the senior tribal leaders, so there i was, in pasani, just outside of shajoi attempting to bring the district chief the embodiment of the government of afghanistan, for
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all intents and purposes, to the most of the people in his district, trying to bring him to the village, so that we could have ashura, a collection of elders to discuss and try to determine some of tgrievances these had and in order to deal with the problems. prospecti prospective, colonel referred to the banjos playing in the background. zabul is the alabama of afgh afghanist afghanistan. it's an economically depressed area, socially conservative, by afghan standards, very socially conservative group, so they're very uninterested when outsiders come into their area. so when we bring the government of afghanistan, which is seen as an outsidner a lot of ways into these places of course there's some resistance. so that day, we fight through that ambush, just a few people, just trying to harass us. we get to the village and inside the village we say all right, this is ashura. the person empowered as the
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leader of that district nobody shows up to ashura. that's not okay. that doesn't really give you a lot of confidence in the ability of the government to govern. we go around and round up all the houses, knocking on doors, the afghan police are going out and just talking to people, not mean like in this case, but bringing them in, in order to have the ashura. they sit there and they're quiet for a while, so kayum being who kayum was, an illiterate 45-year-old afghanistan who understood not necessarily bureaucracy and governance but understood how to build a personal relationship taunts them. hey your ambush, that didn't stop me. i'm here. the government of afghanistan is here, and that broke the ice, because that's how that works there. and these individuals, they began to talk to him a little bit, wasn't super successful, and so after about 30 or 40 minutes of that discussion, we decided to break down. that was the first time kayum
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had been able to make it to the village in his ten tour as district chief. we break down and we leave, we get ambushed again because that's again how that works. we get back to the district center and say all right in a week we're going to go back. kayum says why, we were just there. touch points. the idea of integrating ourselves into there. we didn't have a lot of money to throw at them. if we did, what would we build, afghan who survived in the desert in these places? they needed faith in their government. if their primary concern which is what they discussed during that ashura, you guys aren't ever here, the government is not here. why should we trust the government? why should we do this? we needed to demonstrate a little bit of consistency. in a week we went back. guess what happened? we got ambushed. didn't take us long, because we knew it was going to happen this time so we were able to build a pattern but we go in there and this time, people showed up to the meeting, so they knew we
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were going to be there. they knew that wasn't going to scare kayum away and he is able to demonstrate the government is here and coming back and the government is going to be there to stay. that's the absolute baseline piece what have we were attempting to establish during that period of time. so as a prospective that's not solving problems, that's just giving people a little bit of faith that somebody is there. and that was one of the major challenges that we had in terms of supporting governance during that period. so i'm going to talk a couple years later, so in 2013 i go back to afghanistan. some things changed, some things haven't necessarily changed. the idea of creating sustainable solutions, empowering the local government to be able to increase that connection hasn't really gone away, which is heartening to see. so 2013 i redeploy as part of the 10th mountain division as we were talking about. i was part of a security force
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assistance brigade. so we talk about those four pillars at the beginning, going through separating insurgents from the populous, training host nation security forces, addressing grievances and transitioning authority. security force assistance brigade was the idea we could have specially tailored u.s. military organizations that are supposed to integrate with the afghan army and the afghan police, in order to improve their capability. okay. so we deploy and we're spread out. we have to reduce the -- because of the boots on the ground restrictions, we had to reduce the size of the u.s. forces so we were taking risk. we had security force teams, senior officers, senior ncos that had to develop a personal relationship with the afghans that they were working with, and they had to make sure -- because that was their security. there's only, you know, ten or so at any given time walking into kandax of 500 or 600 afghan
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soldiers. you have to rely on that personal relationship that you develop and that was one of the things a lot of them did. so one of the challenges i talk about is, happened on june 8 of 2013, when i got a phone call from my squad ron commander. i need you to pull your teams back from the other side of the i would. we are in a base surrounded by afghans. he says, hey, colonel clarke and major leonard were just shot. it was a green on blue incident, which if you remember the news from the 2013 era, that was a very significant one. however, this is half way through a deployment and the first one we had. we thought we had knicked that one. we had built that relationship. we had tried to build that trust but as it came down it was a cultural difference, and the u.s. army, if you screw up, you're told hey, you screwed up and everybody kind of moves on. the afghan army, that's a challenge to authority, and colonel clarke had told a recon
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company commander that he didn't do his job properly and so he was offended, he was ashamed and his response to that was to come back and it was to kill two senior u.s. officers in our briga brigade. now if your entire mission is to go there and be a security force assistance brigade and part of that is building that trust, how difficult do you think it is to regain that trust on the u.s. side? how difficult is it to convince yourself i need to go back out there and i need to trust these people, when individuals in your element are being killed by the people that you're there to help. so it's difficult. that's one of those challenges. so when we say security force assistance, we say we're going to advise, assist, we're going to implement change. our presence itself isn't necessarily enough. it's our presence and then building those relationships and having the faith and in some cases just the courage to i'll talk off my body armor so i can interact with you person to person. and that's really tough sometimes. so i'm going to run out of time
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if i continue going on about war stories. what i would like to say, just to echo some of the points already made, the war in afghanistan it's been a struggle, but it's not a struggle because of any sort of lack of effort or skill or resourcing. it's a struggle because counter insurgency operations are difficult. it's very complex. i liken it to trying to build a house while you're getting shot at. if i'm getting shot at, it's not as big a deal but the carpenter who knows how to build the shot, if he's getting shot at it's going to disrupt his job. the constrant problem is the technical experts you need to get to the locations to do the technical difficult jobs, they're not always available. so what you end up having, like with myself and kayum is a 26-year-old infancy captain who is advising him on how to run a district. it's not necessarily what we call the wheelhouse, so i don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of the bureaucracy. same as if i was responsible for going through and building a house. if i'm going to build a house
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it's going to look like a house. it won't necessarily have all the parts, the plumbing might not be right, the electricity might not be right. unfortunately what we see a lot of the times, we have people building the house in afghanistan, helping support the governance, helping support build this country back up from the shambles it's been in and well sometimes all the bureaucracy doesn't work right because we don't necessarily have the ability to get the state department or those technical experts on how the government works into the places in order to, you know, make sure our fiscal policy is good or make sure something else is working properly. it's difficult, and then when you add on the social, you add on the cultural differences, and the language difficulties, if you don't have an interpreter, for instance, who is very good, then you could spend months having conversations with somebody where nobody knows what you're saying. so what i would like to say is the u.s. army and the military in itself isn't always the best
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tool for producing or for rebuilding a nation, but often times it's the only one that we have, and so we owe it to ourselves, so that u.s. people, to the people who are actually sacrificing, like colonel clarke, colonel leonard or two of my soldiers, sergeant fyke and sergeant hoover, who are going to give their life trying to partner with the afghan soldiers, we owe it to them to make sure we get it as close to right as we possibly can. so i'm hoping that some of my discussion, some of the discussions of the panel such as this actually help improve that and improve the quality of the decisions that we're making so the war stories usually have happy endings, rather than somewhat sad ones. so thank you very much. i appreciate it. [ applause ] >> major, those were moving remarks, and very informative. good morning, everyone. thank you, chris, and all of
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you, for the opportunity to be here. it's a privilege to be part of this important discussion today. one quick note on baseball, today's an important day in washington baseball. i just want to be the first to say, i'm sure not the first, even if the nats don't have a good post season i want to applaud them on a great season. it's been a wonderful baseball season. cubs fans, how greedy can you be? two world championships in 107 years? isn't it enough? i want to make a plea they make a faux pax pant. i'll segue from that into afghanist afghanistan. on afghanistan i am not greedy. i am not looking for a stellar outcome. to me even though i support the mission and support president trump's decision to reinforce it, auto i'll sure i'm not necessarily in the majority of the panel on this view and we'll hear from others and of course from you in the conversation. i do support that decision, but i don't see it as a pathway towards a resounding victory. i think the stakes in
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afghanistan are, frankly, more modest, and they well back down to making sure we're not attacked again by a plot that's largely hatched or planned or organized on afghan or south asian south asian territory as we were on 9/11. another way to put the same sort of idea is that i hope that our presence in afghanistan which may have to last i'm afraid for many more years can help the eastern flank in a broader region-wide struggle against violent extremism which i expect to be a generation-long struggle and had the privilege of writing an op-ed in june with david petraeus that this is a generation long move against extremism and we need strongholds and a bastion to weigh that successfully and the afghan presence is the most logical place in south asia. i actually see in some ways the presence in south asia not as
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simply bailing out a sinking ship but a strategic asset for the united states. if you essentially assume the existence of this ongoing violent extremist threat throughout the broader middle east, you're going to need assets to deal with that, some locations from which you can handle that threat. now, we'll come back to the issue of negotiations later. if the only thing standing in the way of a truly viable peace deal with the taliban was an american willingness to leave south asia, i would probably be willing to consider that and support that. at the moment, i would actually like to turn the logic away from viewing this as a nation building enterprise and also argue that this is creation of an american strategic asset in a geographically important part of the broader central command theatre. my first point is to underscore how i see the stakes and the broader strategic purpose here. i want to do four more things briefly before turning over to
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steve biddel and scott. i want to talk about what are realistic goals for president trump's strategy that he's articulated that's further fleshed out by general dunford and other statements from other parts of the u.s. government. what are the for seeable goals. what are the main concepts, the main things we're doing that hopefully can help us achieve realistic goals. how long will it take. and then what's the role for negotiation. so again, beyond the question of strategic stakes that i've already touched on, what are more realistic operational goals. what are the main concepts for what we're doing with these added resources on the ground. what are the time lines we have to think about for this kind of a strategy to have any chance. then finally, what if any role can we aspire to for negotiations with the taliban and the afghan government.
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in terms of realistic goals and chris in his very good introduction alluded to the kinds of things i want to talk about here. he mentioned that by u.s. intelligence estimates as repeated by the special inspector general for afghan reconstruction which does these reports every few months that there's an estimate now that the afghan government only controls about 60% of the country. to be more precise, that's actually the right number and none of these estimates are exact anyway but the report itself says that 57% of the territory and 62% of the population are essentially under government control. another 10% or so is under taliban control, and the remaining 30% or so is contested. that is a deterioration over the last half decade and especially over the last two to three years from an earlier figure of the government having maybe 70 to 72% estimated control of the
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territory and population. so what i would like to see as a realistic, attainable goal that i think president trump could possibly achieve in his first term is to reverse the momentum or the direction by which those numbers are changing. so if we've gone from roughly 70% government control to 60%, i'd like to see us aspire to 65 to 70% again under government control by the end of 2020. general john allen and i wrote about that more recently after president trump gave his summertime speech on afghanistan policy, endorsing that kind of a standard as one that we thought was attainable. that may sound sort of like splitting hairs, you know, a different shade of a mediocre stalemate. i'm sure some people will want to have that debate today and we should as i say. however, a lot of what's happening in afghanistan the last two or three yeears is a function of psychologist and the perceived momentum.
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the taliban think they're winning which is why i'm not hopeful about a near term negotiation option. i don't think they're going to negotiate for any less than what's essentially a surrender today. i think we have to change that perception if we have a hope for realistic negotiation. also the pakistani intelligence services which are continuing to aid and abet or at least condone the taliban as i think the pentagon officials i mentioned earlier have already testified to yet again this week in washington. if we're going to try to change the calculus of the pakistani intelligence which is a daunting propositi proposition, we have to show that defeat of the afghan government today is not inevitable but there's a realistic chance that the taliban can be held off even as nato has downsized dramatically since the peak of forces back in the petraeus, mcchrystal, allen period when we got up to 100,000 u.s. troops and nearly 150,000
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total nato and nato-led troops. now we're down to a number that's only around 10% of that figure, somewhere around 15,000 total. we're probably headed up to 20,000, 22,000 with the current trump strategy so we're still going to be dramatically smaller but we are going to, i think, have enough capability for a decent chance at reversing this momentum. to me that's the goal that we should be hoping for and with the important psychological effects on the taliban, on the pakistani intelligence forces and services that support the taliban and certainly on afghans, many of whom have been leaving the country after a lot of the diaspora came back after 9/11, it's trickling out in this declining morale because there has been a sense of gradual slippage that the country is gradually being lost. if that could be changed, you could reverse the flow also of the young afghans, many of whom
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i met and admire greatly who are trying to build their country and they have a lot of work ahead of them for all the reasons that max got at. but i think they have a chance as long as they believe in the mission and stay to complete it. when i say mission here obviously i'm talking much more broadly than a military mission. those are to me the realistic goals. i can't prove they'll be achieved by president trump's new strategy. i do think it's important to caution even as an advocate and supporter of that strategy that the president's talk of victory is to my mind unrealistic and probably not even productive because it raises expectations too high. but i have a lower set of standards that i think may be attainable and that would be important if we could achieve them. so what are we going to do with these extra forces? first let me clarify the numbers a little further because i know there are a lot of numbers dancing around out there. those of us in the unclassified world don't exactly know the numbers anyway. that's partly deliberate. secretary mattis has been very
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clear, as has president trump. they don't believe in giving complete information to the american public because by necessity you're also giving it to the enemy when you do that in a public debate. however, we do know a fair amount about the current troop configurations and what will happen with the reinforcements. up until president trump's speech this summer we had about 8400 americans in afghanistan in uniform, according to the official numbers. we've gradually learned over the years that there have been probably 3 to 4,000 additional temporary forces on any given deployment, any given time, so the u.s. number has really been probably around 12,000 in the last year or so, even though the official number which is really the people who are based there for, you know, 7 to 12 months has been 8400. so we've been at about 12,000 u.s. and another 5,000 nato and nato partner countries. so roughly in the range of 17 or 18,000 total foreign forces in afghanistan. that number is now apparently
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growing by 3,000 to 5,000. so we're going to be somewhere between probably 20,000 and 24,000 total foreign troops as these reinforcements arrive in the country. that's still only 1/6 to 1/7 the number we had at peak when i had the opportunity and privilege to travel to afghanistan myself. in that period of time it was amazing to see what people like max were doing on the ground and, you know, you also had to acknowledge even as a supporter of the mission that these guys often deserved better than they were getting from their afghan partners from their american political system, what have you. but i still thought that they accomplished a fair amount and there is in many ways now the basis for at least some modest progress towards the standards i outlined before. you might say, however, if you're a skeptic and i suspect there are a few here, why can we get done with 20,000 foreign
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troops what we couldn't get done with 150,000? very fair question. what are those troops going to do. what they're going to do primarily is to get out in the field as combat advisers and mentors to afghan units that are in contact with the enemy. this does raise the risk for american forces who have largely been confined to headquarters and training facilities in the last couple of years. there's now going to be a larger number out in the field, sort of the way we've been operating in iraq in the fight against isis in the last three years. there will be more of that. many of these units in the afghan army and police have very, very young leadership. it hasn't really gotten that strong yet because a lot of their leadership was politicized in the karzai period in particular. i think it's gradually reforming and improving but we sort of skipped over a step of being out there in the field mentoring with them when president obama accelerated the drawdown in decisions he made in 2013, 14, 15. so we haven't really done this
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phase of being out in the field mentoring and i think that can make a substantial difference. also we haven't had free use of american air powers. it's been very restricted to cases where american forces were under direct threat or where we saw al qaeda or isis targets. now secretary mattis, president trump, general nicholson on command in afghanistan are going to allow nato air power to be used more routinely in fights against the taliban, even to support afghan army units who are the ones of course leading that fight today. so air power and mentoring are the main things we'll be doing differently than we have been, more expansive use of air power. i've already touched on the time lines issue and the negotiations issue so i can summarize by saying the following. i think this will be an indefinite mission. i think i would be less than fully honest with you as a person who supports this operation and who's tried to think through some of its longer term dimensions if i didn't acknowledge that it could be a decade or more, and i use the expression a generation-long
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struggle against extremism earlier. i'm not promising that if we surge or mini surge for two years we can come home in 2022. i have no such promise and you shouldn't support this kind of strategy in my opinion if you have that as a requirement, that we would be able to come home let's say within five years. i don't think a complete departure is going to be in the cards in that time frame. i hope we can return to the path of downsizing within that time frame. now, there are variables, what does pakistan do in terms of sanctuary for the taliban. what role do we see with isis and al qaeda and to what extent does a broader extremest threat percolate in that region. and of course afghan politics, whether there's a good election there for the parliament next year or a good election for the presidency in 2019, whether the very gradual process of fighting corruption that i think president ghani has made some progress in conducting and which cigar notes has actually born some fruit.
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i was struck that cigar is pretty good at rotting out and vetting out corruption when they see it. they acknowledge that some of the procurement restorm strategies the afghans used under president ghani have made substantial head way in their recent report from last winter. if we can see that kind of progress continue, maybe there's hope for a quicker drawdown. finally, to conclude, in terms of those who are hoping for a negotiated outcome with the taliban and steve may or may not speak to this, i look forward to his thoughts, i am a full supporter of that as long as it's not a surrender. right now i fear that the only kind of deal that might be doable with a group that thinks it's winning is effectively a surrender. if it becomes a power share arrangement, giving certain governmentships in the southeast that are monitored and supervised but otherwise under their control, i'm hope to that framework for discussion. i fear right now we have to reverse that battlefield momentum before we can be there and have a realistic chance and
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i hope president trump's strategy might get us to that place of reversing momentum. thank you. [ applause ] >> mike has kindly handed to me the negotiation portfolio because that's the easy part of this issue area. i'm happy to talk about negotiation, but it's important i think to set it into a little bit of context first. after 16 years of this conflict or range of plausible outcomes is a lot narrower than in 2001. and the range of plausible u.s. options is a lot narrower than it was. we're not sending 100,000 troops back to afghanistan. and i suspect the panel will agree we're not going to get anything that would conventionally look like military victory in afghanistan regardless of what policy choice we adopt. when the president talks about victory, i suspect either he isn't thinking very hard about what that means. probably not a fan of the 19th century prussian military
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philosopher who talked about defining victory and defeat in terms of political objectives rather than destroying the enemy. we're not going to destroy the enemy. i think the range of plausible outcomes for this campaign at this point is somewhere between the collapse of the afghan government and a return to 1990s atomized civil warfare and a compromised negotiated settlement that does not look like a taliban surrender instrument either. that involves us giving something and them giving something. that's where the range of plausible outcomes lie at the moment. and the range of initiatives that the united states could plausibly adopt to pursue getting closer to the likelihood of a negotiated settlement that involves some sort of compromise or sacrifice of all the interests that are engaged amounts to somewhere between complete withdrawal, which is a plausible choice for the united states, and something that looks
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like 24,000 troops on the ground to advise, air strikes, and an expenditure from the u.s. treasury something on the order of 15 to $30 billion a year or so to support that effort for as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement we can live with, which is not going to happen in six months or a year or even two. a negotiation this complicated is going to take quite a while to unfold. now, you could reasonably ask are any of those outcomes worth that scale of expenditure to obtain? and i think i suspect also the panel probably agrees that the scale of u.s. interests engaged in the conflict is somewhere in the real but limited neighborhood. the stakes that the united states faces in afghanistan today involve some combination of the use of afghan territory as a base for terrorists to attack us, as mike pointed out. that is a real problem, but it is not a problem that's unique
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to afghanistan. there are lots of pieces of real estate around the world where al qaeda or the islamic state or jebad al-nusra or any of dozens of other violent militant groups that mean us ill aren't now but might be in the future. if the way we're going to deal with this generation-long problem of how do we cope with violent extremism is we're going to spend $30 billion a year and send 24,000 soldiers everywhere they might be in the future but aren't now, we're going to run out of dollars and soldiers a long time before violent extremists run out of real estate. i tend to suspect that the more compelling american stake in afghanistan is regional stability, which is code language for whether pakistan collapses or not. pakistan is right across a very porous international border in the form of the duran line from afghanistan, the pashtun ethnic group that's primarily associated with the taliban insurgency.
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there's a cross-border population that has more members on the pakistani side than the afghan side. and pakistan is engaged in an insurgency and a counterinsurgency war of its own that by some metrics isn't going terribly well for them. if the pakistanis lose their war, then a nuclear weapon state with a large and growing nuclear arsenal and dozens of violent extremists groups that don't like islamabad and don't like washington could then plausibly be a setting in which the military and intelligence services break up if the state loses its war and collapses and that creates some danger that an actual usable nuclear weapon could fall in the hands of terrorists that might use them against ourselves or our allies. that's a real threat to u.s. national interests. and collapse on the afghan side
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of the duran line could create base camps in afghanistan by which militants in pakistan might pursue an agenda that is potentially quite dangerous to the united states. although that's a real problem for us, note that would require a whole series of uncertain events breaking badly for us in sequence. the u.s. counter insurgency campaign in afghanistan would have to fail. the afghan government would have to fall. pakistani insurgents would have to set up base camps. that would have to tip the pakistani insurgency over the brink. the pakistani government and intelligence services break up. they lose control of their nuclear arsenal. that's not an impossible sequence of events. the compound probability is probably less than 50% and maybe a lot less than 50%. if it happened, it would be a disaster for u.s. interests of historic magnitude, but it's a
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low probability chain of events. what then are we willing to invest in afghanistan to have some marginal influence, not a guarantee of success if we succeed in afghanistan. pakistan might lose its war anyway. to have some marginal influence in reducing the likelihood of this chain of bad events going badly. and that's a judgment call that reasonable people can make differently. in the past i've been supportive of the war because i think low probability events, if they're ugly enough, and this one is way up there in the ugly scale, are worth some degree of investment. reasonable people can make that judgment call differently depending on your risk tolerance, which as an analyst i can't tell you what your risk tolerance would be. some of you are probably invested in the stock market. some of you may be washington nats fans. there may be all sorts of variations from person to person in risk tolerance.
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what i can tell you is i think on the merits, it's a relatively close call. if you decide that you're willing to incur that risk, or you're willing to incur that cost to reduce that risk, what is the sensible way to reduce the risk the most for the money that we spend? part of the plausible policy agenda open to us at the moment is reinforcements to the advisory effort and a change in the rules of engagement for the use of air power. especially the latter could be quite helpful. the other important avenue that is open to us that is actually not terribly expensive in financial terms is to actually get serious about the negotiating process. we are not going to defeat the taliban. and the advisory effort is not going to enable the afghan government to defeat the taliban. with some combination of the advisory effort, american air strikes, american intelligence assistance, american equipment,
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other initiatives that we may pursue in afghanistan, is plausibly able to do is to maintain a stalemate. we can change the slope of the curve on territorial control, you know, make it a bit more shallow, maybe make it a little bit positive. we're not going to kick the taliban out of the country. we probably are not going to see a taliban takeover even if we don't reinforce. the taliban have shown some but very limited ability to penetrate urban areas. my guess is either way what we're talking about is something that most people would describe as a stalemate and the issue is what variation on stalemate do we want as a function of how we plan our military posture. i tend to be pessimistic on what security assistance can do. i don't think the central barrier to the performance of the afghan national security forces at the moment is how much training their junior officers have. i think the primary barrier to the performance of the afghan national security forces are
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profound structural issues having to do with the institutionalization of the afghan state and the consequences of that for military performance. more on that in just a moment. where i think our policy probably has the most marginal influence on outcomes is with respect to the way we handle the problem of negotiation. any outcome better than afghan state collapse and return to 1990s style civil warfare amounts to a negotiated settlement. what the military campaign is doing between now and whenever that happens or doesn't happen is we're just changing at the margin the terms of the settlement that will result. so settlement is the only alternative to outright defeat, failure, and rolling the dice and running the social science experiment to see what happens to pakistan if the afghan government actually collapses. that in turn means that if we're
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going to spend money and if we're going to send troops and if we're going to risk american lives and the advisory campaign we have to be serious about the settlement prospect involved because that's the only point of doing this. and yet we have no assistant secretary of state for south asian affairs. there's an acting official in that job. we did away with the office of the special representative for afghanistan and pakistan whose job description was to act as czar for development of a negotiating strategy. the conduct of the campaign in afghanistan as far as i can tell, and this goes all the way back to when mike and i were traveling there and back to my time on general mcchrystal's assessment team has never been conceived of as the military arm of a combined political/military negotiating strategy. what we have had, and i think
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unfortunately continue to have is a campaign plan that looks like let's create the best trajectory we can for government control over time and at some unspecified point in the some unspecified future there will be some unspecified negotiation that will exploit this military result to produce a better partition of the state than we would get without it and i don't personally think that is responsible policy for a democracy that's killing people in the name of the state and spending tens of billions of dollars in the project. i think we can reasonably demand of a our government some articulation of what is the strategy for getting to a negotiated settlement and serious effort not limited to but including staffing out the relevant parts of the government that would be required to actually get a negotiation that could justify the scale of
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expenditure and this scale of expenditure of human life. the one element i will add to the agenda of what's required for seriousness in the negotiation is it's going to require some horse trading on capitol hill by an administration willing to spend political capital rather than just money on this war and on this campaign. as we saw in 2012 when the obama administration did this kind of semi deal with the taliban where in exchange for them giving us the unfortunate sergeant bowe bergdahl, their one captive, we were going to release a small number of taliban detainees from guantanamo bay. and that was intended largely as a confidence-building measure to start the negotiating process. when that was announced, capitol hill melted down. there was huge opposition.
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how can you release these terrible terrorists from guantanamo bay? the obama administration got cold feet, withdrew the deal. the taliban concluded we were bad faith negotiators. the talks collapsed and went into deep freeze from which they have only very imperfectly recovered. reasonable people can disagree over whether or not even with a properly staffed negotiating strategy, even with some willingness to build a constituency on capitol hill for a compromise deal so another bergdahl-taliban deal meltdown doesn't happen whenever compromise negotiating proposals with the taliban are revealed. reasonable people can disagree about whether if you make a serious effort you can get a deal. i'm on the optimistic end of that spectrum. mike may be less so. i suspect in q&a we can turn to what the negotiating space would look like, what you would have to do, who you'd have to talk to and all of that. it's all important towards what we're discussing. but if you are not somewhere on the reasonably optimistic end of that spectrum with respect to the negotiating prospects,
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steady as she goes is not a viable strategy. because it's not going to win the war. all it can do is tee up a settlement. if the settlement isn't coming, we ought not be doing this. what we've got at the moment in my view is dangerously close to steady as she goes and hope for miracle. keep the war on life support. maintain the stalemate. prevent the taliban from gaining momentum. and expect that sometime in the future somehow in a way that we're not going to articulate we'll get to a settlement that lots of people are skeptical can occur. that i don't think is responsible policy for democracy. i think we reasonably should ask more of our leaders in terms of articulating the logic by which our expenditure and our military effort and our adviser produces a settlement that's better for
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us than simply government collapse in kabul. [ applause ] >> hope for a miracle is probably a good segue for what i'm going to talk about. so 2001 the taliban is in control of afghanistan. freedom house assess the country as now free. 2017 after 16 years of significant efforts, freedom house assesses afghanistan as not free. transparency international rates the afghan government as more corrupt than 96% of all governments in the international system. in addition to being corrupt, the afghan government and its security force are incompetent. the taliban currently control or contest approximately 45% of the
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country, more than at any other time since they were last in power in 2001. and regarding a threat to the united states of america, the taliban themselves have obviously never conducted a strike in the homeland and al qaeda, which has conducted a strike in our homeland and did enjoy sanctuary in afghanistan, has not conducted an attack since 2009, and that was the unsuccessful botched mission by the underwear bomber. if you're talking about safe havens, al qaeda can currently be found in pakistan, somalia and yemen. very few fighters are you going to find in afghanistan. for this reason and some more i'm going to get into i'm going to argue it's long overdue for the withdrawal of u.s. military forces, to bring them back home. my two primary arguments this morning are one, the threat does not warrant our continued presence in afghanistan. and two, the strategy we've used for 16 years which is the world's most exquisite, most capable military force, this giant wonderfully shiny hammer is marauding muslim majority states looking for a terrorist and then shwacking the terrorist
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and really hoping that all we killed was the terrorist and not somebody else. so to begin, the threat does not justify is my argument our presence in afghanistan. so here's a chart of 50 years of data on exactly how many americans are murdered each year in the homeland. question for today is how many of them are murdered by islamist inspired terrorists and how many of them are murdered by someone else? obviously the green bar suggests it's always someone else who does the murdering in the united states. it's not islamist-inspired terrorists. in fact, in only one year can you detect the impact of islamist-inspired terrorists and that's of course 2001. and i want to talk for a moment about the terror attacks on 9/11. those attacks were unprecedented. had not ever seen it in history prior. we have not seen it since. it's an outlier event. twice as many human beings perished that day than any in other terror attack ever in history.
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and it's important to note in contrast to that large-scale terror attacks almost never take place in the west, in north america, much less in the united states of america. our worst terror attack outside of 9/11 is timothy mcveigh in 1995 when he killed 168 in oklahoma city. the second most severe attack in north america is one most people haven't even heard of and that's going back 32 years when extremists blew up an air canada flight killing 129. instead, all large scale major terror attacks take place in failed or war-torn states. it's also important to note that in 2001 our homeland security efforts were much different then than they are today. all of the hijackers made it into our country legally using their real identities. all of the pilots received their
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technical training here. the idea that this technical training was done in afghanistan, maybe they shot two rounds out of an ak-47. it was done in america in plain sight. one of the hijackers lived with his flight instructor. two of the instructors left the united states and successfully argued their way back into our country by assuring american ins agents that they were authorized to be here by insisting that their were students. that's not anything on the american system. it's to say that that was a different time and i'm trying to drive home the point that they operated as freely as they did in the united states of america. we've eliminated the most important safe haven and that's the united states of america. there are terrorists who still seek to harm america. my assumption is there always has been and always will be and you can make a definite argument that the terror threat today is
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more intense than arguably previous terror campaigns may have been. but they're limited in what they can do here and they're limited because of our homeland security efforts, not because of our military operations abroad and that's what i want to turn to next. our military-centric combat power can solve this riddle approach we've been using for 16 years now is clearly not working. the first argument, the main argument that you're all going to have heard is that we need to protect americans and the way we're going to do it in a post 9/11 world is we're going to take the fight to the enemy. we're going to kill and capture them yoersz today so they do not come into the homeland tomorrow. you've got more than 30 years of data captured here. the main point is on average less than one islamist inspired terror attack takes place in any one year and they kill only a handful. in comparison to the numbers of
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each year that we kill -- this is regular americans murdering each other, it doesn't seem to cause as much concern. you'll have potentially six or so americans die from islamist inspired terror attack and every year you have more than 15,000 americans killed by another american and somehow one is much more concerning than the other. the second argument we hear is that we must destroy and defeat al qaeda. if you remember early on it was al qaeda and all terror groups of global reach. at the time, according to our state department and a cool organization out of stanford called mapping organizations, there were approximately 13 such groups. al qaeda was number one. they had approximately 32,000 members, followers, potential fighters. 16 years we've invaded two countries, toppled three regimes and conducted military strikes in seven nations and the response is now we have 44 of those terror groups we're facing including the islamic state numbering 110,000. if somebody wants to make the argument of how the military
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strategy is doing well, i would love to hear that in the lunch session because the logical implication is all of our military efforts have not achieved the main goals that we're looking at. this is a sub-point to the previous. we've conducted military strikes as part of the war on terror in seven muslim majority countries. you're supposed to be able to see three bars here. a bar that represents the average number of attacks in the 14 years prior to 2001, a bar for 2001 and then a bar for the 14 years after. with the exception of pakistan, you only see the bars afterwards. all of the terror activity that we're experiencing today did not precede but followed u.s. military strikes and the u.s. military strategy to combat the war on terror. all right, i want to switch to my final point and this is a linked argument. you'll hear people say we're in afghanistan to prevent the
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taliban from returning to power, we need to surge forces to arrest the momentum that was spoken of earlier and that's lyn linked to the idea that if the taliban returns to power, afghanistan will be a safe haven for terrorists. i think that argument is dubious on multiple levels but the first here is the taliban back in 2001 controlled or contested almost the entirety of the country and they did that with 35,000 security forces. 16 years later after has a 382,000-member security force, and they are barely able to control or contest half of their country. in addition to having more than ten times the security force of what the taliban had 16 years ago, they've had us fighting for them and i can assure you for many of the years we were doing fighting. then we were fighting alongside world class training going on, world class advising, equipping billions of u.s. dollars going in to stand up the security force, billions of u.s. dollars trying to get the economy going because that's an assumption
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underlying some of the grievances that max spoke of earlier. then my finally point is if you're concerned -- not trying to be snarky here. if you're concerned about safe havens, afghanistan is at the back of the line. the current terror safe havens for al qaeda, the islamic state, groups like that, are not in afghanistan. they're in syria, iraq, nigeria, a total of seven countries before you have to worry about afghanistan. so if the safe haven argument is a compelling one, there's plenty of other places we should be directing our attention rather than afghanistan. so in conclusion, my primary argument is the withdrawal of u.s. forces is long overdue and the primary argument that i'm using today is, one, the threat to the homeland does not warrant our military presence afghanistan and the military force has clearly failed to achieve the objectives. thank you. [ applause ]
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so what i have managed to do as a moderator is to cut into my own time, but it was because i enjoyed listening to these four presentations. i don't feel that badly about it. i do want to leave sufficient time for those of you in the audience to ask a few questions. i just want to pick up on -- i am going to exercise my privilege on just one point. i want to come back mostly to steve biddel's remarks because i agree with him that the prospect of a negotiated settlement being acceptable politically here in the united states is vanishingly small. the concessions that the united states made to the taliban as part of the bowe bergdahl trade which steve referred to are so much less than the concessions that we would be party to in the event of a negotiated political
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settlement in afghanistan that left the taliban at least as partners in some sort of power sharing agreement in the government. so this is a question for the panelists as well as for those of you in the audience and watching online. will we americans ever be willing to tolerate something in afghanistan that does not look like unadulterated victory which all four of the panelists have said is not a realistic prospect, and if we americans are not willing to accept anything less than unadulterated victory, then are we not, in fact, merely on a steady as she goes, hope for a miracle, and in the meantime sustain the appearance of not losing because we will not actually accept a victory that isn't -- that doesn't look like, you know, august of 1945.
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that's my observation. and one quick question going back to max's anecdote. i think i got this quote right, max. you can correct me. sir, he doesn't think we're welcome here, or words to that effect, right? this is being translated, right? sir, he doesn't think we're welcome here. so my question to the panelists is, does that matter? how much does it matter whether or not we're welcome here. mack very welly said it's better to be feared than loved, i think, if i got that right. we know for example that changes in the rules of engagement that have already been approved by president trump are increasing the incidents of civilian casualties inside of afghanistan while again, the goal of the u.s. military is to strike the right people and i respect that, we have weakened and softened the rules of engagement that
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increase the likelihood of civilian casualties. so how much does it matter how much support we're getting inside of the government, and does not a strategy that requires us to use force in a more permissive way than we did under the rules mostly put in place by general mcchrystal, does that in myself cut against the goal of being able to stay there as, mike, you say indefinitely and to be tolerated indefinitely. i'll throw that question to the four of you very quickly and then i'll open it up to the audience. >> do you have a particular order in mind? >> no, not really. >> max can go first. >> i'll say a couple things about that. the issue is american assistance is sometimes considered a pen asia of support. an air strike is awesome, the idea that somewhere without any sort of danger something above knows exactly where it needs to shoot and the shoots and the thing that we want it to destroy
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is destroyed. it's deceptive in a lot of ways, the difficulty in being able to discern targets, the difficulty of making sure that the people on the ground have identified the proper target, a lot of this is -- those are its own challenges. one of the primary issues i have with that is that afghans don't have air support. they don't have -- there's no afghan air force that's able to provide this air support. so if we're talking about training an organization to be able to survive on its own without continued american support, air strikes are probably not the solution. the solution is teaching them how to use their indirect fire assets, teaching them how to maneuver and fire and fight on the ground in those situations. the solution is not teach them as afghans who are not going to have this once the american with the radio leaves. the solution is not to teach them, hey, if you're under fire, hunker down, wait for the air strike to come and then go clean up the body parts. that's not how that works and
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that's not good -- to follow that, that's not good military strategy. it's not good military tactics. it's unfortunately what we teach. whenever we're in a bad situation, that's what we're instructing the afghans who we're fighting alongside, don't worry, america is coming, we're going to bring a bomber. we're not going to be there all the time. >> three quick points in response to your question, chris, about our long-term staying power or the welcome we receive. as i see it anyway, point number one, overall public opinion in afghanistan towards the united states has always been much better than in iraq, but that's relative to a pretty low standard. it's deteriorated with time. it was extremely high. afghans were extremely proamerican in the years right after the 9/11 and the overthrow of the taliban. those numbers that steve and i were most frequently there, the petraeus, mcchrystal, allen, dunford era, the numbers were around 50% and now they're probably continuing to decline as people get frustrated with
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the war. the second point, there are still a number of afghan officials, reformers, leaders who want us there either because they know they're not yet up to doing the job themselves, they need to build the air force or what have you, or because we provide a little bit of an honest broker effect even among people who don't like us. they still know we're not taking sides between groups. we don't have favorites and that's part of why the iraqis tolerate us. they see us as neutral, even if they don't tend to like us. the third point however and here i'll be wary of this afghan support. there are a lot of people who want us there because we're the sugar daddies, providing the influx of resources and they have learned to feed off of that. of course that is a fundamental challenge to the mission and there's still a huge amount of corruption in afghanistan so a lot of people want us there for the wrong reasons. >> quick word on each of your two points, starting on the are
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we welcome here point. foreign troops are never welcome. they are often tolerated however when the population believes that they're bringing something that wouldn't be there otherwise. maybe that's money. more commonly it's security. the province in iraq is a fascinating example that's relevant to afghanistan as well. when we were present in anbar but in troop numbers too small to actually stabilize the country, we were perceived as causing the violence and we were lethally unwelcome. when violence then declined and the perception in anbar was that the american surge had something to do with this, the american presence then was tolerated. i was able to walk through fallujah without body armor, with an american patrol, and people weren't throwing rose petals in our path. we weren't going to win a popularity contest but our presence was tolerated because it was perceived that our presence was the price to the
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end of violence. and people wanted the violence over. the worst case to be in is when you're there in numbers large enough to be irritating but small enough -- too small to solve the problem. unfortunately, that's diekind o where we have been in afghanistan a great deal of the time. no one crossing a wide chasm would begin by jumping halfway. the problem with these sort of halfway presences is that they're enough to create antibodies but not enough to provide anything that the population thinks is worth that cost. that has not always been true. our presence in germany, south korea, other places where the response has been very different in part because people thought we were defending them from the soviet union or north korea and they valued something in exchange for the indignity of the basing of foreign troops on their soil. with respect to would americans
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ever be willing politically to tolerate a deal with the taliban, obviously i think in principle the answer could be yes, but isn't necessarily. i cited the bowe bergdahl case for a reason in that context. the case for arguing that it might be possible with the proper amount of political investment in engineering would be first of all, it has always been striking to me, at least in the last ten years, how close to completely invisible the war in afghanistan has been in american domestic politics. people periodically make claims about the american public doesn't want the presence in afghanistan. when polled the american public typically prioritizes afghanistan 12th out of 10 in things that they want their elected official working on. to a remarkable degree in american domestic politics and especially to a remarkable degree in the history of democracies waging wars, afghanistan is largely a vote of
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conscience for practically every elected official in america. you would eneneed a microscope detect it. given that its political sail yens is so low, i think it's susceptible to some degree of orthodox political engineering to reduce the downside political risk of a settlement by pointing out to key committee chairman, by pointing out to people in our own party, this president theoretically is a republican. the opposition to the bergdahl deal was overwhelmingly republican. it's not impossible to imagine that a president who cared enough about the outcome to spend money and risk lives would be willing to make the political effort to persuade republicans on capitol hill that the alternative to this deal is outright failure. i think you could imagine someone willing to invest that
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kind of capital, persuading enough key voices from his own party on capitol hill to make a deal that's sustainable but it will not happen on auto pilot. it won't happen if you spring a deal on people that involves concessions to the hated taliban test last minute and provide opportunities for lots of people who had become quite irritated at you for various reasons to take advantage of the occasion. it requires some degree of seriousness. >> eric has yielded back the balance of his time. okay, so we do have a few minutes here. a few ground rules which should sound familiar to you here at the cato institute. we abide by the jeopardy rule. that means questions are in the form of a question. no speeches, please. please wait for the microphone for the benefit of those watching online and on c-span and please identify yourself and your affiliation if you have one. i'm going to group the questions
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together in two. so right here and then right there. go ahead, sir, and then you, sir. >> lou, independent consultant. my question is the following. i agree with the analysis about the negotiation but i haven't heard anyone speak about the other parties who have to come to this table which is the afghan government and historically fractured tribal structure which has an influence. i agree that longer term or intermedia intermediary or shorter term, how do you convince these two other groups that it is in their best interest to yield? >> mr. gupner, you talked about it isn't worth the struggle. do you imagine that you would need to negotiate your way out or just get out?
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the second comment, i worked 15 years up in the senate and i noticed recently senator kainen, the senator from rand paul, bipartisan, got 39 votes on a new resolution authorizing military force because people are concerned about the united states being involved in all these foreign conflicts. the politics of this issue was changing. >> the first question is mostly to you, steve, and then eric. >> as far as getting the afghan government involved, one of the reasons why i said this settlement isn't coming in six months or a year or two is because any negotiation theorist would look at this and say this is going to be an unusually complicated negotiation because there's so many parties involved and the afghan government is not a mono lengethics participant. the communities in the north of
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the country and particular are very nervous about what will be negotiated away in this kind of settlement and have historically been quite opposed to negotiating. the southern in particular and to some extent the easterners have been much more supportive. there's an internal domestic horse trading process that's going to have to occur within the afghan government before they can formulate a consistent negotiating stance. now, part of this internal negotiating process which inevitably is going to be mostly afghan will try and influence it at the margin and shape it of course but at the end of the day this is going to be a horse trading process largely within the afghan side of the talks. part of this will be, i suspect, tacitly identifying red lines that the government will not go below in the compromises they're willing to make. so things like girls' education for instance which is much more favored in the north of the
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country than in the south. might very well constitute a red line. things like governorship control is -- probably will be and probably should be a red line that the afghan government should not be willing to negotiate a taliban governors p governorship. so part of the process presumably is quietly internal to the afghan side. the afghan president, whoever it is at that time, making it clear to political leaders, especially in the north but to some extent in the west, that there are red lines that they're not going to go below, and your interests will be respected. part of this also however is necessarily going to be horse trading. the united states is probably going to have to sweeten these kinds of deals, and we have at our disposal for a great deal less than we are now spending for advisory presence a fair
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amount of degrees of freedom for deal sweetening. mike is the expert on budgeting so i will tread into this territory only with fear and trembling. but a common rule of thumb for the cost of keeping an american soldier in a combat zone in a place like afghanistan in a year is about $1 million. so if we're talking about an adviser presence of 24,000, that's about $24 billion a year right there. you reduce that by 10,000 and you make available a lot of economic aid that can be used to create incentives for internal parties within afghanistan to be willing to cooperate with a compromised deal. but note that this is a very complicated political engineering process which is one of the several reasons why i find it so frustrating that we've basically depopulated a fair part of the apparatus of the u.s. government that would
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normally be expected to do the political intelligence work and the negotiating work and the management of this kind of a complicated process because it's very complicated. >> eric, can you speak to the second question. >> in terms of negotiate or just withdrawal absent a negotiation i think either way from an american perspective is fine. a central argument we would make is that the u.s. military presence as noble as it is is inadvertently causing some of the problems. so by removing u.s. military forces we're taking a positive action to lower the animus, hatred, grieve ens against the united states. if you go back to al qaeda, we're not their primary enemy. their primary enemy was local. it's about political power at the local level, in al qaeda's case probably the middle east. the only reason they struck us, their argument was if we don't strike the far enemy, we'll never supplant our near enemy which is our overall goal.
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fundamentally the withdrawal of forces is a positive step for the united states to decrease the amount of terror activity or interest directed towards us. so whether it's concurrent with negotiation or absent negotiation from an american perspective, i don't think it matters. to go back to a previous point, i definitely agree this is a generational struggle. i think we misidentify whose generation the struggle is for. it's not a united states struggle. this is all about grievance, political power, frustration, goal achievement in the middle east or central asia. it has very little -- none of these groups are fundamental about coming to the united states. that's not any of their mission statements to my knowledge, they only do it as an opportunity to get some other local goal they're trying to achieve. >> should we have a vote on a new authorization to use military force. eric? >> yes. >> steve? >> yes. >> mike? >> yes but i don't want to see the existing one lost if we fail to get a new one. >> max?
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>> abstain from that one. >> understood. two more questions. i saw a hand right back there and then back there. go ahead right there and right behind the line there. yes, sir? go ahead. >> hi, i'm a visiting fellow here at cato. i have a couple of questions. one is for professor o'hanlan. you discussed in your remarks how serving as a strategic ally. how do the rouhani's feel about this? is this something they want, something they're, windowing towar towards or is this the price they have to pay for the price of security in the long run. and can you discuss the rouhani economy. the u.n. office of drug and crime reported a 43% increase last year and i wonder what kind of effect that would have on any kind of negotiation or settlement with the taliban. >> sir, go ahead. this will be our last question
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unfortunately. >> my name is charles oliver, i'm a foreign service officer. i spent almost six years in afghanistan. took a year off to recuperate. i saw quite a bit between 2009, 2015 and i was the scr in con da har when we closed down our civilian platform. during the midst of all this i saw obviously quite a bit and there was one kind of glorious moment in the middle where we actually had a joint civ mill strategy. i was heading a task force there. i'm wondering where is the 3-d in all of this thinking where we have this military strategy cooked up. i just came from another meeting where they're talking about the national security strategy, not quite there yet,alculus? we have people sitting in kabul now for a year and do not even see beyond the walls of the embassy.
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>> max, do you want to take either of those? >> i'll discuss a little bit in terms of the opium economy that has developed in afghanistan. frankly, zabull, my first experience afghanistan, they spent a significant amount of time building or having grapes, grapes used to be famous so they have grapes and i think it was pears? was it pears? >> pears? pears. >> they had another fruit that grew on a tree. [ laughter ] basically it took -- but the important part of that is in terms of grapes, you need to make sure that nobody destroys your vineyard during the year you're growing grapes are. for the trees or fruit that came off the trees, apricots, you can sell it for as much as opium, it took five or six years before it would give fruit so if you're in afghanistan making an investment return in six years, you're a fool. because that was not -- there was no reason for them to
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believe that in six years they were able to do it. opium, it was a two harvests a year, that's a lot of money and they had a willing buyer so i can say a little bit of experience, in 2011 down in kandahar being there we had american bases in the middle of vast fields of marijuana, for instance, and we were i rad kating drugs but it didn't solve the problem. there was no alternative to that and so we spent a little time in 2010 trying to develop with the us usda, hey, this is how you make your yields of other crops more productive but until the afghan government has a secure hold on the country and they can say this is illegal and your next best alternative is this other crop, they're probably not going to change because in the end they serve families that have existed, they don't want the government to be involved in their life, that i've existed for a long time providing for their own families. they don't have anybody to fall back on and if open open where
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up is how they get to that, they're going to continue growing it until someone says they can't. >> very quickly since one question was posed to me, i think we don't know for sure what the afghan political system would say about a long-term security partnership. i'm not proposing a formal treaty but a long-term partnership. it would be good to put it to the test politically within afghanistan so i think it would good to produce the outlines of a treaty. ultimately it would be the best way to test your question. my sense is overall afghans would welcome a security partnership with the united states because most feel that they are too weak and need help. and this -- by the way, very quickly about what you raised for a broader strategy, sir, and i admire your service, six years is a lot of time in afghanistan, you're right, we haven't done full justice to it today, especially one like me defending the overall presence. we have to keep fighting corruption and supporting the
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afghan government. we have to think about the upcoming elections, the independent oversight boards are not yet strong enough to do a better job than they did in 2014 so i'm worried about that. the pakistan dimension is part of a broader strategy and then finally the idea of getting reformers to come back home which is part of my perceived need to reverse the sense of momentum and perception in the security trends. i want to see those young afghan reformers come home to do what you're alluding to with the broader strategy. so those are the beginnings of doing j ustice to your question >> well, i'm afraid we are out of time. i want to thank the panelists for their comments, thank all of you for attending and watching. for those of you here with us today, please join us on the second floor in the conference center for lunch and continued discussion and with that, thank you all very much for attending.
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[ applause attending. >> announcer: join us tonight and all this week for american history tv in prime time. tonight we'll look at former president herbert hoover and his relationships with other presidents. american history tv prime time begins at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3. in the meantime tonight on c-span 2, it's book tv in prime time. our focus will be science. first, scientists kelly we weinersmith and cartoonist zach weinersmith. then satya nadella talks about the reinvention of microsoft in his book "hit refresh." then ellen ullman on her book life in code. later massachusetts institute of technology physics professor max tegmark examines the context of artificial intelligence in his book "life 3.0."
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that's all this week in prime time on c-span 2. coming up tonight on c-span, former sake tears of state madeleine albright and condoleezza rice are joined by u.n. ambassador nikki haley in an event hosted by the george w. bush institute in new york. the panel was part of a forum on freedom and security and includes opening remarks by former first lady laura bush. here's a brief look. >> we have to realize we are dealing with the president of russia who is a kgb about and they know how to do propaganda and they're using information in a way to undermine the system, democracy, what they want to do is undermine the democracies in europe and separate us from europe and i believe they have figured out how to make our life more complicated in every single way through various new methods, tweets and bots and various aspects and we are an open
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society and they are using our openness, how do we deal with it without closing down? it's a challenge for us to think through but it has changed because we are being attacked in a new way through a new system. >> that's just a brief portion from tonight's portion features former secretaries of state madeleine albright and condoleezza rice and u.n. ambassador nikki haley. you can see that program in its entirety tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span. tonight on "the communicators" adam alter talks about his book "irresistible, the rise of addictive technology." what we say is we know the dangers of technology. they don't say things like we've built in special mechanisms designed to hook people therefore we don't want our kids hooked, but that's the sense you get. basically never get high on your own supply. if you are creating something, you know what the dangers are, you want to make sure other people who you love and hold
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dear are not going to be affected by them. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. the "wall street journal" posted its annual ceo council meeting in washington, d.c. in this portion, white house national economic council director gary cohn spoke about the administration's tax reform efforts, while democratic senators mark werner and amy klobuchar discuss the democratic congressional agenda. this is just over an hour. >> so without further ado, why don't we start our first panel. taxes are always at the top of the agenda, you folks are keen on understanding what's happening with policy making in washington. today we have the person from the white house who is going to be the chief guide of the white house's tax plan through the congress that's gary cohn, the director of the national economic council. he'll be interviewed by jerry

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