The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Cordesman: Afghan Security Forces may not be ready by July 2011

When Anthony Cordesman puts out a report on the military, the Washington community takes notice. His research shop inside the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a reputation for producing exhaustive reports on the defense department, the military, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are as well sourced as they are blunt. ...

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

When Anthony Cordesman puts out a report on the military, the Washington community takes notice. His research shop inside the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a reputation for producing exhaustive reports on the defense department, the military, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are as well sourced as they are blunt.

Cordesman's latest product, released today by CSIS, is an unvarnished and sober look at the progress of the Afghan National Security Forces, the key organization that will have to take over control of large swaths of Afghanistan when U.S. troops begin to withdraw next summer. According to Cordesman, their capability to do so is in serious question.

"President Obama‘s new strategy for Afghanistan is critically dependent upon the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). His speech announcing this strategy called for the transfer to begin in mid-2011. However, creating the Afghan force needed to bring security and stability to the region is a far more difficult challenge than man realize and poses major challenges that will endure long after 2011," the report states.

When Anthony Cordesman puts out a report on the military, the Washington community takes notice. His research shop inside the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a reputation for producing exhaustive reports on the defense department, the military, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are as well sourced as they are blunt.

Cordesman’s latest product, released today by CSIS, is an unvarnished and sober look at the progress of the Afghan National Security Forces, the key organization that will have to take over control of large swaths of Afghanistan when U.S. troops begin to withdraw next summer. According to Cordesman, their capability to do so is in serious question.

"President Obama‘s new strategy for Afghanistan is critically dependent upon the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). His speech announcing this strategy called for the transfer to begin in mid-2011. However, creating the Afghan force needed to bring security and stability to the region is a far more difficult challenge than man realize and poses major challenges that will endure long after 2011," the report states.

"There is a significant probability that the ANSF will not be ready for any significant transfer of responsibility until well after 2011," Cordesman writes, adding that speeding up the expansion of the Afghan forces is a bad option because it risks building a force that is not up to the task.

"America‘s politicians, policymakers, and military leaders must accept this reality-and persuade the Afghan government and our allies to act accordingly-or the mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed."

The report laments eight years of failed policy regarding how the United States approached the training and development of Afghanistan’s military. It blames senior leaders in Washington and pleads with them not to underestimate the scope of the problem or paper over it with false hope.

"The war will be lost if the U.S., our allies, and ISAF do not learn and act upon these lessons," Cordesman wrote. "It will be lost if efforts to meet political deadlines try to rush ANSF development beyond what is possible, or in ways that do not create strong, growing cadres and forces to take over responsibility for security."

You can read the entire 250-page volume here.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.