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.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.