The overarching Western objective in Afghanistan should be to prevent that country from becoming not just a haven for transnational terrorists, but a terrorist ally as well. That was the situation prior to 9/11 and it would be so again if the Taliban returned to power with al-Qaeda backing. NATO can prevent this indefinitely as long as it is willing to commit significant military and economic resources to a counter-insurgency effort. It cannot eliminate the threat, however, as long as the Afghan insurgents enjoy sanctuary in and support from Pakistan. Alternatively, this objective could be achieved if the Taliban could be persuaded to cut its ties to al-Qaeda and end its insurgency in exchange for some role in Afghan governance short of total control.
This article describes the slow and uneven movement towards a more professional approach to nation-building. The post-cold war era is replete with instances where the United States found itself burdened by the challenges of nation-building in the wake of a successful military operation. American performance in the conduct of such missions improved slowly through the 1990s, but this trend was not sustained into the decade beginning in 2000. The article outlines what a more professional approach to peacebuilding would require, highlighting a hierarchy of tasks that flow in the following order: security, humanitarian relief, governance, economic stabilization, democratization and development.
The post-World War II occupations of Germany and Japan set standards for postconflict nation-building that have not since been matched. Only in recent years has the United States has felt the need to participate in similar transformations, but it is now facing one of the most challenging prospects since the 1940s: Iraq. The authors review seven case studies – Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan – and seek lessons about what worked well and what did not. Then, they examine the Iraq situation in light of these lessons. Success in Iraq will require an extensive commitment of financial, military, and political resources for a long time. The United States cannot afford to contemplate early exit strategies and cannot afford to leave the job half completed.
Preparation for nation-building requires that responsible political leaders consult both with regional and functional experts, those who know why the society in question descended into conflict and those who know from experience elsewhere how to put such societies back together. Goals must be established which transcend the most immediate and normally negative purposes of the inter vention, e.g. halting conflict, stopping genocide or turning back aggression. These positive goals must be commensurate with the scale of military manpower and economic assistance likely to be committed. The larger the social transformation envisaged, the greater the resistance likely to be encountered. The most common cause for the failure of nation-building endeavours is a mismatch between objectives and commitments.