Afghanistan: “Peace” as the Vietnamization of a U.S. Withdrawal?

How Did We Get Here? By Anthony H. Cordesman

One has to be careful when examining the “peace” the United States is now seeking in Afghanistan. There are many warning signs that this peace effort may actually be an attempt to provide the same kind of political cover for a U.S. withdrawal as the peace settlement the United States negotiated in Vietnam. At the same time, U.S. policymakers may be taking the current peace effort in Afghanistan seriously and believe it could actually succeed. At best, it is a well-intentioned attempt at peace, whose authors do not realize that this form of “peace” is likely to rapidly deteriorate into a Vietnam-like withdrawal.

Seeking a failed peace is an all too real possibility. After all, almost all current U.S. and other international peace efforts lack a clear strategy that goes beyond military victory or conflict termination. In Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, the U.S. goal is limited to bringing an end to the current fighting, creating some form of ceasefire, or defeating the current terrorist threat. There is no clear effort or plan to produce a stable peace and create both a workable and lasting structure in any country’s governance, security, or economy. Looking for a hidden motive in the lack of a meaningful peace strategy for Afghanistan can easily end in discovering that a motive does not even exist.

And yet, all of the public descriptions of the current U.S. peace efforts in Afghanistan are so shallow and short-term that they at least seem designed to provide a cover for a U.S. withdrawal. Like the “peace” in Vietnam – they involve an extraordinary level of risk. In fact, if there is a major difference between the prospects for the current U.S. peace efforts in Afghanistan and the actual outcome of the U.S. peace efforts in Vietnam, it may only be that the current U.S. peace efforts in Afghanistan seem less likely to produce success than the U.S. efforts that ended in the fall of Saigon and North Vietnam’s conquest of the South.

This report, entitled "Afghanistan: Peace as the Vietnamization of a U.S. Withdrawal?", is available for download here.