Lieutenant Colonel Joseph C. Myers, recently named the Deputy Director of the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Nexus Afghanistan, is a career Infantry and Foreign Area Officer with extensive overseas experience. He just completed one year of service as a political-military affairs officer in the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. On September 29, LTC Myers addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call from Afghanistan.
LTC Myers initiated his talk by pointing out that Afghanistan has been an economy-of force-theater and that in eight years it has not made the progress that the American people expect. In short, Afghanistan still lacks a fully integrated government—from the national level to the local district level—that fully functions and can provide basic services and meets the needs and expectations of the population. It is critically important in a counterinsurgency environment that the government be considered legitimate and receives support from the population; otherwise the insurgents can exploit that discontent and challenge the governing legitimacy.
According to LTC Myers, the focus of U.S. strategy to date, in an economy-of-force-environment, has been primarily oriented towards developing national institutions—the national government, national security forces, the military and police—whereas the insurgency focuses on the local and village, or "tactical," levels. The new strategy recognizes the need to focus on all levels—from village to province to national level—executing a cohesive, integrated civil-military plan. The poor economy of Afghanistan provides a ready pool of income-seekers which the insurgency can and does employ.
Asked about Al-Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan, LTC Myers stated that Afghanistan is no longer a "safe haven" for international terrorists. Instead, Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are more likely hiding in the tribal areas of western Pakistan.
In response to a question regarding state sponsorship of the insurgency in Afghanistan, LTC Myers argued that the extent to which nations such as Iran may be funding Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is a matter of some debate; but it is clear that much of the funding for the insurgency in Afghanistan is from the private-sector, including from "charitable donations" via zakat. Illicit finance and threat finance are important components of Afghanistan's problems and much analytical effort is devoted to this problem. Whereas the average Afghani is not ideological, Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership are, influenced especially by Deobandi Islam and Wahhabism.
According to LTC Myers, the ultimate aim of the Coalition counterinsurgency strategy is for Afghanistan to be able to provide security for its own people with a stable government in a developing economy and that it is secure within its own borders: this is the only way Al-Qaeda will be prevented from, once again, securing a safe haven in Afghanistan.
Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.