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Analysis: Afghanistan, Five Years On

Council on Foreign Relations

October 4, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

The purpose of invading Afghanistan five years ago, fresh after the Twin Towers fell, was to eliminate al-Qaeda’s safe haven. The Taliban had turned a blind eye to terrorist training camps and, once the bombs began falling in October 2001, urged global jihad against America (PBS) before fleeing across the border into Pakistan.

Five years on, the Taliban have rebounded and retaken large swaths of land along Afghanistan’s southern periphery with Pakistan. Buoyed by profits from opium, these insurgents also allegedly enjoy support from Pakistani intelligence, something Islamabad denies. Insurgents have already killed more coalition forces this year—163—than they did in all of 2005. “ Afghanistan has become Iraq on a slow burn,” writes Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers.

So what can be done? Bill Clinton, in his recent fiery interview with FOX News, accused the White House of treating Afghanistan as just one-seventh as important as Iraq (based on 20,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan versus 140,000 in Iraq). The United Stateshas spent over twice as much per capita on Iraq as it has on Afghanistan. Yet more troops and aid are “not in the cards” (LAT), admits CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot. Instead, he suggests playing “hardball” with Pakistan and supports a “more hands-on nation builder” as ambassador to Afghanistan, much like Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy from 2003 to 2005. NATO’s supreme commander in charge of the alliance’s operations in the country, Gen. James Jones, says success lies not in military solutions but matters such as smart reconstruction and a comprehensive counternarcotics strategy.


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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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