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Al-Qaeda, Taliban security threat exaggerated: report

International body says a new plan is needed for Afghanistan as current focus is out of proportion.

An Afghan army soldier stands guard at a security check point at a military base in Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan.
An Afghan army soldier stands guard at a security check point at a military base in Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Image: Reza Shirmohammadi/AP/Press Association Images

ONE OF THE WORLD’S LEADING thinktanks has claimed that the threat posed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban is being exaggerated.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is challenging the idea that western forces must prevent Afghanistan from exporting terrorism.

It says the west’s counter insurgency efforts in Afghanistan are at risk of becoming a “long, drawn-out disaster” and have already “ballooned” with aims beyond their original goals.

In its Annual Review of World Affairs, the IISS says that as military action in Afghanistan reaches its peak and begins to wind down, the original goal of dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan must be replaced with a “containment and deterrance policy to deal with the international terrorist threat from the Afghan/Pakistan border regions”.

At present, the COIN [counter-insurgency] strategy is too ambitious, too removed from the core security goals that need to be met, and too sapping of diplomatic and military energies needed both in the region and elsewhere.

The IISS says the belief that if coalition forces pull out of southern Afghanistan, al-Qaeda will rush in is crowding out other solutions:

The problem with judging that al-Qaeda would just return or that the Taliban would turn itself into an international or global threat following a major withdrawal of coalition forces is that this presumes that no other policies would be implemented to contain the terrorist threat from the Afghan/Pakistan border areas or to deter it.

It recommends a “balance of weakness” between the capital and the provinces which would “invite a less contested political-security space” and would require less international cooperation.

Shared power between the provinces and the capital would reflect Afghanistan’s provincial primacy, rather than bolstering a central government which “cannot deliver”.

The group also warns that “public tolerance for the generation-length commitment that political and military leaders in the West have sometimes spoken about is waning”.

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