by Sarah Grace
While there are many similarities between the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam, the inherent differences between these countries mean that their trajectories after a US departure could not be more different. Many factors inhibit the building of an effectively governed, peaceful and secure Afghanistan, but for the United States to remove itself from the conflict would be devastating for this country and its people, the surrounding region, and likely the world at large. Instead of abandonment by the United States, the path to success for Afghanistan requires a concerted and thoughtful military resurgence to motivate a peaceful settlement; this can then be solidified with culturally-competent restructuring and partial decentralization of the Afghan government so that it has the legitimacy it needs to operate unchallenged by further insurgencies.
During his presidency, Barack Obama rejected the comparison between the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are indeed many heavily significant distinctions between the conflicts, combatants, cultures, and contexts of Afghanistan and Vietnam. However, the specific trajectories of the two wars are unique in American history, especially since the nation’s emergence as a superpower in the 20th century. Both do represent a commitment of lives and resources to a conflict fought on a highly strategic and highly visible stage. Neither have shone a flattering light on the United States and its ability to adapt to other forms of warfare; or to protect civilians. These are ultimately very distinct conflicts, and there are many reasons why what proved best for Vietnam’s future (America’s withdrawal) can not be implemented in Afghanistan. However, the comparisons between these two wars must be made so as to understand what is best for Afghanistan’s future, and for future conflicts the US may have to fight. Through this comparison, the US can learn that taking the time to understand one’s enemy can and does win out over superior resources.
The war in Afghanistan does closely mirror the Vietnam War’s political and military situation. Demographically, both Afghanistan and Vietnam were fought by rurally-based insurgencies, in countries with an 80% rural population. They share a historical divide between a minority of modernizing elites in cities, and this majority (religiously conservative, in Afghanistan’s case) rural population. The insurgencies that emerged from this second group have both been ethnically cohesive and exclusive. The United States’ efforts have been hampered by the fact that in both Afghanistan and Vietnam, bases were deeply infiltrated and native interpreters forced to inform the enemy of every move and thought. Often this was because they or their families were not protected by American forces and were held captive by the enemy. Finally, the reprehensible behavior of US troops massively compromised civilian trust, and often served to recruit for the other side (Johnson and Mason, 2009).
Turbulent, somewhat parallel histories shaped an adept class of insurgent fighters in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. These countries have been the subjects of European imperial ambitions and aggression, and subsequently fought off the invaders. More contemporary to their conflicts with the Unite States, these countries were similarly wracked by over a decade of civil war, both of which were fought north against south. Because of this Vietnam and Afghanistan already possessed multiple generations of highly experienced and skilled fighters, ready, willing and able to take on the American forces. The insurgencies were led by combat commanders who had already had to deal with the strategic consequences of the challenging terrain of their home soil (Ibid). The home advantage was, and remains, extremely profound.
While Afghanistan’s mountains and desert exist in sharp contrast to Vietnam’s tropical jungle, both terrains are out of the comfort zone of the United States military. These landscapes have proven essentially impassable in many case, and therefore vastly complicate land maneuvers and military strategy. Vietnam and Afghanistan are also far from the US, each half a world and an ocean away. The US has therefore been forced to rely on airpower for transport and firepower as the principal method of combat, resulting in considerable expense and massive logistical difficulties. Because of their respective geographies, these countries have unseal-able borders. This has complicated the United States’ efforts in Vietnam and Afghanistan because it is impossible to contain or trap the insurgents or prevent outside aid from being given to their causes (Ibid). In Vietnam this is because of the extremely long, heavily rain-forested borders the country shares with China to the north, Laos for the bulk of its western length, and Cambodia to its southern and lower western border. The entire eastern side of the country is coastline. In turn, Afghanistan shares a border with seven countries: Iran to the west, Pakistan to the east and south, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the north, and it also briefly borders China and India (though this border is in Kashmir, occupied by Pakistan). At various points in these conflicts, aid has been funneled through these border states, and sanctuary has been offered. (Dobbins & Malkasian, 2015)
The format of both these wars has been the world superpower against poorly-equipped guerrilla forces: insurgencies that were recruited from, and hid among, the common people in spite of their unpopularity. However, the traditional American war of attrition is in no way an effective counterinsurgency strategy (Johnson and Mason, 2009), and this has been proved in both Afghanistan and Vietnam. The United States’ involvement in Afghanistan’s government especially could have made a much greater impact. According to El Salvador former defense minister General Rene Emilio Ponce, counterinsurgency should be composed of 90% political, social, economic and ideological efforts and just 10% military effort (Quoted in Benjamin C. Schwarz, 1991). Combat power is less useful than legitimacy in some respects because if a government is seen as legitimate by 85 to 90% of the population, success is essentially guaranteed against an insurgency. It is important to note that this legitimate government does not have to be popular; popularity is not at all the same thing as legitimacy (Johnson and Mason, 2009). Legitimacy is culturally and historically dependent, and requires some sort of entitlement: a right to rule. This points to the difficulty in one power attempting to shape another without properly understanding it. Unlike the deliberately secular, democratic United States, in Afghanistan, legitimacy is derived from religion, dynastic inheritance, or both. Therefore, an elected government in Afghanistan will not be seen as legitimate precisely because it was democratically chosen. In Vietnam, the people found their own legitimacy, and in Afghanistan they have desperately been trying to find a compromise with the United States’ often misguided help.
In both of these wars, the United States misread the conflict they were participating in (Ibid). While plenty of preparation was done, critically the people in power have not understood the motivations of their combatants. Strategically this is always important, but it is especially difficult, if not impossible, to defeat an insurgent enemy that is not properly understood. Johnson and Mason argue that in Vietnam the US was fighting against communism while the Vietnamese were not fighting for it. Instead, the Vietcong fought out of the nationalist desire to self-determine and reunify their country. This greatly impacted their resolve and their ability to recruit. Afghanistan’s conflict has always been a religious war from the perspective of the Taliban and Al Qaida, regardless of the purely secular campaign the Americans think they have been waging against terrorism. Jihad is their narrative, and as Johnson and Mason argue, to the jihadists there is no negotiating with God’s will (Ibid).
Further beyond the structural similarities of these conflicts, they have had a similar effect on American self-perception, and perception by the international community. Interventionism on the part of the United States has been a determining factor in world affairs for over a century, starting with the Spanish-American War in the 19th Century (Warner, Margaret, and Smith). However, American interference in the Middle East has had a spotty history, and has been increasingly unpopular domestically (Blake, 2017) as in many countries not directly involved in the region. In an age of growing nationalism around the world, and now many decades removed from a ubiquitous imperialism, self-determination has been the trend and desire for most emerging states, who want United States capital and aid, but not necessarily involvement that is not economic. The events of September 11th shocked the world, but invading two countries and remaining there for over a decade has stressed the connection between the initial motivation and what came out of it. It has also strained even further the already negative perceptions of the United States. Similarly, American involvement in Vietnam became unpopular internationally, as well as domestically (Ibid).
Besides their respective unpopularity, another of the central parallels between the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam is simply that the United States did not decisively win the conflict. There are Vietnam revisionists who assert that the United States would have been victorious if they had held out a few months or years longer than the two decades the war went on (Horwood, 2009), but these voices are few and far between. Generally, both wars are regarded as failures. However, it has been nearly forty years since the United States signed the Paris Accords and pulled out of Vietnam, so it is far easier to assess the damage sustained to the United States in terms of lives, resources and international reputation. The war in Afghanistan is not over however, so measuring long term implications of U.S. involvement is more difficult. Still, in both cases, the damage was significant and public.
As much as they may look alike, Johnson and Mason assert that there are important atmospheric and structural distinctions between Vietnam and Afghanistan that contribute to why these conflicts are not strategically interchangeable. Most significantly, Vietnam represented a monolithic enemy composed of a nearly homogenous ethnic population fought by a single superpower: the United States in its heyday. In contrast, Afghanistan was and continues to be a widely decentralized state (practically, if not in name) that is incredibly ethnically and religiously diverse, whose war was fought by coalition (Johnson and Mason, 2009). This coalition includes NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a network of Western states with the United States driving many of the decisions, especially now that most NATO troops have been removed. As of 2015, Georgia, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Italy, the UK, and Australia still had troops in Afghanistan, as did the United States with a heavy majority (BBC, 2015).
The fears behind Afghanistan were not ideological, but more concrete ones from recent memory. One of the primary motivations which has dictated American strategy in Afghanistan has been to avoid a repeat of Yugoslavia, not just Vietnam (Barfield, 2011). In the early 2000’s, this conflict from the 1990’s was very fresh in the minds of American military strategists, and not entirely without reason. Historically Afghanistan has not had the conventional mindset of a nation-state, partially because whenever it has been conquered there has been a tendency to largely leave the remote regions (which, as a credit to the United States, have proved a challenge to invading forces for literally millennia) alone with a minimum of required tribute or interference because of the difficulty of governing them (Ibid). There are many, many ethnic groups in Afghanistan. These range from the Pashtuns, who claim to be the national majority but only make up less than half of the population (40-45%), to the Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Turkmens, Ghilzai, Durrani, Qizilbash, and many, many more (Blood, 2001). The thought of facing another region’s balkanization and the ensuing chaos and bloodshed inspired the ill-informed push toward a heavily centralized government (Barfield, 2011). However, while here has only been true cohesion in Afghanistan when prompted to unify against an outside force, Barfield asserts that no one in Afghanistan was worried about the county splitting up in the wake of the regime collapse of the Taliban. Afghanistan has always been a multi-ethnic region, and that has not been seen as a problem by people within the country the way it is in many other multi-ethnic states because it has always been the norm. This is also because there has not been a history of the harsh brand of exclusive control that is perhaps the norm. Instead tribes have a very long-sighted struggle for a particular kind of dominance over other groups, without seeking to eliminate or convert them. According to Johnson and Mason, it is ideology (which has been opposed to the establishment) and not ethnic conflict that has brought down regimes and ignited wars. They argue that ethnic conflict only rears its head in the power vacuum after a state collapse. What appears to be ethnic conflict in many cases is actually control over resources (Barfield, 2011), from transportation to guns to oil… but most of all, in a landlocked desert country, water. More recently, the fear has instead been that the highly dysfunctional central government that the United States has empowered, if not installed, will accomplish what the initial regime collapse did not.
The war in Afghanistan has been a massive drain on resources (fiscal, energy, human and otherwise), so the argument to remove the United States’ presence is fairly straightforward. The United States has not (and seemingly will not) succeed in its objectives in Afghanistan, and has gotten little out of its war there. Maintaining a presence risks American lives every day. However this war has perhaps always been more about terrorism than it has been about Afghanistan’s insurgency, or even Afghanistan itself. Counterinsurgency is not the same thing as counterterrorism, but in Afghanistan the United States has been blending these objectives since the beginning.
Terrorism threatens American lives whether they’re on Afghan soil or not. Afghanistan is the localized seat of more than 20 international terrorist groups and functions as a theater which spotlights the difficulty in fighting globalized non-state actors (Collins, 2017). Leaving the stage early would be a humiliation in many ways, but far more importantly, it would be a failure to recognize the drama the United States has helped write through its destabilizing actions in the past. After all, it was the United States that introduced the Taliban into the country in the first place, and the CIA that trained them. Afghanistan could become a formal seat for terrorism and religious extremism if the United States leaves, or does not adapt its strategy. ISIS is already in Afghanistan, though not in high numbers and it does not seem to be a priority for them at the moment (Johnson and Mason, 2009). For the good of the Afghan people and countless others beyond the ranges of the Hindu-Kush, Palaiman and Sulaiman, and the reaches of the Registan Desert, the United States must find a way to prioritize their goals in Afghanistan, and achieve them through empowering the Afghan people themselves.
If the United States must not pull out of Afghanistan at the risk of destabilizing the country and region even further, then the focal question becomes what the United States can do instead that it has not already done. Over the 15 years since the United States invaded, many strategies have already been tried, ranging from efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people to harsh offensives. The Obama administration’s strategy was to clear, hold, and transfer or build, which enjoyed very little success (Fair, 2010). Further investments of troops have been proposed by Collins and the Trump administration seems to see this as the solution (Rowlatt 2017) but throwing more firepower at the problem will not solve the complex web of problems that stand between contemporary Afghanistan and a stable United States ally and very necessary force for peace in the region. As Johnson and Mason assert, elections do not make democracies, democracies make elections. Even legitimate (non-democratic) Afghan rulers of the past have not fared well. Every single one of them for over a century (1901 to 2001) either died a violent death or in exile; central governance has always been a struggle in Afghanistan (Barfield, 2011), which means adapting unconventional solutions.
The best option is the proposal by Johnson and Mason (2009) to create a concentric ring structure of command, with Afghan leadership at the center, closely bolstered by American money and firepower, letting the Afghan military take the lead with proper training, and emphasizing local tribal leadership by elders. This takes into account the quintessential regional diversity of the country, and also mollifies and leverages the expectation for self-rule among the many groups. Barfield sees these two problems as totally central to the issues the country faces in any attempt to restructure, so incorporating them into the strategy instead of fighting them is the best option. In Afghanistan, legitimate governance is also very localized, which can be a challenge for US strategists who pay attention to provincial boundaries and don’t think outside the Westphalian box. It is worth considering the fact of alternately-governed spaces when projecting future strategy for Afghanistan. One route to success in Afghanistan could be giving Afghanistan it’s head, by rebuilding local leadership in the form of village elders through culturally adept policy. These various tribal leaders should be incentivized by the Americans and also the Afghan government so they are not forced, but willing to collaborate with a larger state structure (Johnson and Mason, 2009). There is a lot to offer them, from schools and natural resources to healthcare and jobs. In return, they could enable something which the United States is not equipped to bring about: spaces to deal with insurgents whose concerns are not global, but local (Barfield, 2011).
This kind of ability to resolve disputes and address concerns could really change the war, not only by opening up meaningful lines of communication, but also by circumventing the motivations many recruits have for joining. This will not be relevant to all insurgents however, so these locally-led areas could potentially participate as bases against any of the other twenty-odd international terrorist groups which exist in Afghanistan. The employment this would bring could massively change Afghanistan’s low standard of living and also restrict the pool of highly recruitable dissatisfied youths, along with changing many people’s perception of the United States. Barfield argues that an Afghanistan with this kind of culturally integrated and adept governmental structure could even find a place for a Taliban faction in the government, which would potentially remove their motivation for insurgencies in the first place (Johnson and Mason, 2009).
It is a somewhat unorthodox solution, but almost all the conventional options have been exhausted. It is time for a culturally competent strategy to help Afghanistan craft a stable and secure government and infrastructure that fits its national identity in the 21st Century, which will necessarily depend on the military to set the stage.
The prevailing American military strategy in Afghanistan has been sequential and linear, and this has been its failing. Town by town, even province by province, American and to a limited extent Afghan forces have attempted to clear out the Taliban (or other terrorist groups) from the area, hold onto the area and make sure that the Taliban does not retake it, and then build infrastructure, schools, and resources for the people to help cement the change (Fair, 2010).
Given the level of firepower the United States military has access to, clearing has not been a problem of resources. However, it has been challenging because of the difficulty in discerning civilians from insurgents. Here it is sometimes not unlike Vietnam, where people were farmers by day and guerillas by night, but more often the two populations are distinct (Barfield, 2011). Unfortunately, the United States has made numerous mistakes in telling one from the other, with disastrous consequences. With few exceptions, American military personnel in Afghanistan do not speak the language, and do not understand the culture of the people they are trying to save and serve. A further complicating factor is a failure to recognize these callings as a core component (if not the priority) of their mission: a foreign military hunting terrorists is a very different kind of presence, with significantly less regard for the people they hide among. In 2015 and 2016, there were over 15,000 civilian casualties (Collins, 2017). Some of these mistakes have been very dramatic and very public, but others have been the subjects of cover-ups which were then exposed. This has not done anything to win allies among the Afghan people.
Once cleared of terrorists or Taliban, holding onto areas in Afghanistan has also presented significant difficulties. An area may seem cleared, but Afghanistan’s aforementioned geography provides a seemingly infinite number of hiding places for people who know the terrain. After an area has been deemed to be secure, and the bulk of American forces have left to continue their work elsewhere, those who were not shot or captured can emerge from mountain caves (or sometimes cross the border) and retake the territory from a substantially smaller force. They can then tear down whatever schools for girls or other resources were being constructed, and resume total control over the area (Fair, 2010). In 2016, only 57% of Afghan districts were under government control, a steep 15% decline from the year before. Moreover, of the remaining percentage, 40% are under Taliban control or “contested” (Collins, 2017). Holding onto areas cleared in this linear fashion has been a significant challenge. Because of the difficulties in truly clearing and holding onto Afghan districts, the ability to build anything to last (physical or ideological) has been very limited (Fair, 2010).
Democracy is no different in some ways. Since the United States invaded, Afghanistan government has indeed held elections, and two presidents have been voted into office, though massive election rigging has occurred at least once. Hamid Karzai was the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan, and Ashraf Ghani was the second (BBC, 2017). Karzai was not accepted by the Afghan people as a legitimate ruler, and also got in the way of the United States’ efforts in the country to rebuild and make peace (Dobbins and Malkasian, 2015).
The new structure of the governments under these leaders has been, as Barfield put it, not a love match, so much as an arranged marriage. Barfield accounts that achieving any kind of settlement for the new government was a miracle, and all those involved knew it. None of the parties wanted to pick a fight, but no one involved left satisfied because they were not able to properly contribute to the discussions. Apart from the fears of Balkanization and an implicit desire to make Afghanistan in the image of the modern West, international advisors also found the form that emerged (a fairly conventional centralized government) far easier to deal with and coordinate (Barfield, 2011). The parallel structures realistically meant that no one internationally had to adjust their way of doing things in a major way, whereas coordinating with any number of local leaders who actually have the power to change things would require reinventing infrastructure and expectations on both sides. What is right for Afghanistan does not seem like it is going to be what is easy for the coalition forces or the United States in particular, but the potential ends far outweigh the adjustment period which may be associated with the means. This theme of projection instead of research or cultural sensitivity has been vastly detrimental to efforts in Afghanistan, but as the United States has proven in other arenas, it can change.
Success in Afghanistan requires either peace with the Taliban, or their utter defeat. Only 16% of civil wars and insurgencies end mutually, through a negotiated peace settlement of some kind. These are not good odds for Afghanistan. However, for the reasons outline above, truly clearing the Taliban from the country is impossible, especially with Pakistan aiding them at nearly every turn. The Taliban have been fighting even longer than the United States however, and many are tired of the war. There have been several attempts at peace, beginning well before 2006 when their major offensives began. However, at that point the United States had still thought it would be an assured if not easy victory so they did not move forward. Pakistan has interfered several times to prevent them from making a deal, especially with Karzai or the Indians and to the exclusion of their primary backers. However, in 2010, United States diplomats met with the Taliban in Germany. There have been many stops and starts on this train, for reasons ranging from the Taliban not wanting to negotiate with the US backed government in Kabul, to 3rd party miscommunications in Qatar, to the US not being willing to forsake equal power sharing among the diverse ethnic groups of Afghanistan. The United States and the Taliban have taken turns initiating the talks, but there are outside players involved beyond Pakistan, including India and China. China has investments in Afghanistan which include the largest copper mine in the world, and its shared border with the country is a strong motivator to carefully stabilize the extremist elements within it so they do not spread into Xinjiang’s large Muslim population. Because of its deep investments and very close relationship with Pakistan, its staunchly pro-peace opinion carries a lot of weight there (Dobbins and Malkasian, 2015).
However, there are issues within the Taliban itself, which is not a unitary organization. Its many divided factions have prevented the Taliban from getting to the negotiating table in the past, or from staying there long enough to achieve anything (Ibid). Until they are unified enough to be in a position to work for peace, the United States’ presence will be vital. As the expression goes, peace begins on the battlefield. If the Taliban continues to win territories and make substantial gains like the ones they have made in the past two years, there will be substantially less motivation for them to want a peaceful compromise (Collins, 2017). With the help of the Afghan military, American military forces must keep the Taliban on their toes, tired, and hurting, even as they themselves feel that way.
From a military standpoint, strategy needs to be new, thorough and thoughtful. All of these objectives have proved difficult in the past. The United States has largely fought this as a traditional war of attrition, much as they tried to fight Vietnam.+ It has not had any more success here+. As Collins recounts, the Obama administration started strong with multiple surges. However, a part of the Obama campaign was pulling out of Afghanistan, and so the declaration afterwards to withdraw United States troops along a fixed schedule seemed to open the field for the enemy, who fought harder than ever in a war it seemed like they would stand a better chance of winning (Collins, 2017). Senator John McCain’s increasingly infamous quote that the American objective in Afghanistan has not been winning and achieving its goals so much as it has been “trying not to lose,” accurately assessed the effect that a phobia of Vietnam has had on the United States’ ability to operate effectively and think outside of the history book. As Collins says, the United States had an exit strategy “that placed the emphasis on the exit and not the strategy.” The United States should always be thinking of its exit from Afghanistan because that should mean that Afghanistan has been stabilized and empowered; not to save its own face.
Collins proposes a five-part path to success for efforts in Afghanistan. He is correct when he advises the United States to strengthen its commitments to Afghanistan. However, beyond asserting that Afghanistan will not be summarily abandoned, the United States must do this publicly in such a way that it portends not only a military commitment, but also empowerment of Afghanistan as a sovereign state and meaningful ally, and finally a new, more culturally competent approach to the United States’ efforts there. Collins also advises forcing a change in Pakistan’s “frenemy” status, which will be a core part of extracting outside support from the insurgents. He also proposes increasing military forces, but of advisers, not just of troops, and also emphasizes the necessity of improving the Afghan air force. Beyond this, as has been previously mentioned, improving the Afghan army training, numbers, and accurate assessments will be vital to crafting a self-sufficient and effective military (Collins, 2017). Providing further humanitarian aid for Afghanistan is also on Collins’ list, but while this is absolutely a necessity for the United States, NATO and the UN, it should be thoughtfully distributed so as to also further Afghan development through creating jobs and infrastructure. Collins concludes that Trump needs to pay more attention to Afghanistan, and that has already begun to happen. Hopefully the results of this acquired attention will be positive.
While settling the war in Afghanistan is a truly massive task, the greater challenge may be to find a government that can be legitimate without any traditionally viable candidates, and effective while also respecting the extremely varied input of the many tribal leaders that determine the actions of the majority rural populations. It is conceivable that some sort of arrangement could be reached for the purposes of negotiating peace, but there may be no way to prevent Afghanistan’s historical pattern from reasserting itself: that, upon a threat’s dissolution, the motivated unity between the various factions frays apart. If this happens again, there could be nothing to stop another insurgent or terrorist group from doing exactly as the Taliban has done. Here, however, is where the United States can make a difference. Through investment and infrastructure, and education, Afghanistan can take advantage of the natural resources it has to better the lives of all its people, regardless of what ethnic group they belong to. Infighting for these resources can be expected, but this is not a new challenge for development groups. If Afghanistan can attain stability long enough for these forces for economic empowerment to really take root, it could entirely reconceptualize the country, and remove many of the motivations for insurgencies. But the path to this future is extremely complex, and its endurance should it be achieved is not guaranteed. These factors need to be taken into account now, and considered with the gravity they are due.
For Afghanistan to be the kind of success story that Vietnam has become, the United States must help it achieve peace with its insurgencies and create a government that can make that peace last. “Trying not to lose” is not going to win anyone anything, especially the Afghan people; the United States must not be afraid to re conceptualize its approach to conflict and resolution. Learning these selective lessons from Vietnam have the power to not only realign Afghanistan’s uncertain future towards the kind of independence and increasing stability Vietnam enjoys, but also to change the world’s perceptions of the United States, and its ability to be the global force for good it sees itself as.
- Barfield, Thomas, “Afghanistan’s Ethnic Puzzle: Decentralizing Power Before the U.S. Withdrawal,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 90, no. 5, September/October, 2011, 54-65
- Blake, Aaron. “Afghanistan war more unpopular than Vietnam.” The Washington Post. December 30, 2013. Accessed April 12, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2013/12/30/afghanistan-war-more-unpopular-than-vietnam/?utm_term=.d5c3da1420a1.
- “Afghanistan country profile.” BBC News. March 08, 2017. Accessed April 12, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12011352.
- “How many foreign troops are in Afghanistan?” BBC News. October 15, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11371138.
- Collins, Joseph J., Ret. Col. “5 ways the US can recover lost ground in Afghanistan.” TheHill. February 10, 2017. Accessed March 15, 2017. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/319039-5-ways-the-us-can-recover-lost-ground-in-afghanistan.
- Dobbins & Malkasian, “Time to Negotiate in Afghanistan: How to Talk to the Taliban,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 94, no. 4, July-August 2015, 53-64
- Fair, Christine, “‘Clear, Build, Hold, Transfer’: Can Obama’s Afghan Strategy Work?” Asian Affairs: An American Review, vol. 37, iss. 3, July 2010, 113-131.
- International Crisis Group, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition, Asia Report no. 256, May 12, 2014
- Rowlatt, Justin. “What will Trump do about Afghanistan?” BBC News. January 25, 2017. Accessed April 05, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38730061.
- Quoted in Benjamin C. Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and the Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica, Calif.: The RAND Corporation, R-4042-USDP, 1991), p. 22.
- Thomas, Johnson, & Chris Mason, “Refighting the Last War: Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template,” Military Review, November/December, 2009
- Warren et al., eds., Afghanistan in 2016: Survey of the Afghan People, The Asia Foundation, December 2016