Next Steps for Iraq and Afghanistan

The following article was published by STRATFOR Global Intelligence. It is reproduced here in full with their permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and al-Iraqiya List leader Iyad Allawi meeting in Baghdad Tuesday night, a governing coalition appears near. And with a review of the efficacy of the counterinsurgency-focused strategy in Afghanistan due to the White House before the end of the week, the Iraqi question appears to be settling out while Afghanistan remains as unsettled as ever. But in looking at the months ahead, the reverse is also true: While Afghanistan is likely to continue along its current path, the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance.

In the case of Afghanistan, the war still rages. But the review of the strategy has been under way for months, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s formal announcement of the commitment of American combat forces to Afghanistan until 2014 at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November was undoubtedly informed by a familiarity with the broad strokes — if not the finer points — of the forthcoming report. Senior Pentagon officials and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have cautiously noted signs of progress and insisted that while a drawdown will begin on schedule in July 2011, it will be modest. In practical terms, this means the troops committed to the war in Afghanistan and the strategy that guides their deployment do not appear set to shift meaningfully in the year ahead.

Were the report to provide the pivot for a meaningful change in strategy, the Pentagon, and certainly the White House, would already know that by now, and we would have in all likelihood seen some preparation for that shift. So, while there may be course corrections and tactical shifts — and the review itself may provide new insight into the war effort — the Afghan war is increasingly looking like a known quantity, even if it is an active war zone.

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