1. Our strategy in Afghanistan had evolving goals that self-perpetuated America’s continued military presence without achieving effective results. The costs of continued military presence in Afghanistan far outweigh the benefits. Ultimately, we are not obligated to solve all of the problems in Afghanistan—some must be left for the Afghan people to decide for themselves. We must reorient our priorities.
2. We will not abandon Afghanistan and progress that has been achieved over the past 18 years. However, we must reconsider using military power to achieve our objectives and apply other tools of our national power to support a more constrained view of our national interests.
3. The role of ownership for resolving the conflict needs to transfer from the U.S. to Afghanistan. We must encourage Afghan independence and legitimate governance rather than reliance on foreign support.
4. Afghanistan requires a political, not military, solution to its challenges and it will be in the hands of Afghans, not Americans. An enduring, comprehensive, and resilient political resolution in Afghanistan must be Afghan-led and Afghan-implemented, but with U.S. oversight that holds them accountable for their results.
5. The U.S. can maintain our achievements, support counter terrorism efforts, and help promote stability in Afghanistan without a massive military commitment or an annual infusion of $45 billion a year. A perpetual U.S. military presence is not in our country’s national interests.
6. Washington should transfer the leading role from the DOD to the DOS, with the military in a supporting role. The State Department must adopt the preponderance of responsibility and activity in executing foreign policy so that the military can focus more appropriately on its own role. To do so, the State Department must be effectively supported by USG through budget and authorities.

End-State Proposals

1. No Terrorism: The Afghan government must provide internal stability and a secure environment free of terrorist organizations who harbor broader international goals that impact our national interest or threaten the security of the U.S. or its allies.
2. Democratic Values: Afghanistan must retain a constitutional form of government, responsive to the rule of law, its people, and committed to protecting human and civil rights.
3. Continued U.S. Commitment: The United States must remain committed to the security and long-term sustainment of the Afghan state. The United States will continue exerting diplomatic, economic, and political influence in Afghanistan and the region to ensure the protection and promotion of U.S. national interest. Military support will focus on regional counter-terrorism operations and training, advising and equipping the Afghan military.

Expanded Analysis of End-State Proposals

1. No Terrorism: ACNSL’s first and primary red line encompasses the mandatory inclusion of strong agreements between the Taliban, the Afghan Government, and the U.S. to stop the use of Afghanistan as a staging ground for terrorist groups plotting harm against the United States and our allies. We realize that the potential peace agreement asks for each party to take one another at their word, and thus requires the inclusion of an understanding with the Taliban and the Afghan government that the United States will not entirely abandon our efforts and interests in the region. Rather, while the DOS will retain the primary responsibility for maintaining our national interests in the region, our military will retain a limited supporting role to prevent any major terrorist organization from using Afghanistan to plot activities against the United States.

Withdrawal of Military personnel and assets in the region:
– ACNSL’s position on the withdrawal of the military supports the complete withdrawal of all military personnel and equipment from Afghanistan. The United States should retain a regional QRF based in the Middle East to respond to any potential terrorist activities.
However, the United States must only take renewed military action in Afghanistan if:

The terrorist activity or organization is primarily plotting against the United States or our treaty Allies.
a. While regional violence and terrorist attacks within Afghanistan may remain horrific and unfortunate, the United States must not attempt to stop every intra-Afghanistan terrorist attack, dispute between ethnic groups, or violence unrelated to specific threats against the United States or our treaty Allies.
After all diplomatic and in country assets are exhausted.
a. If the U.S. identifies a substantial threat to the security and health of our nation within Afghanistan, we must exhaust all in country assets before considering the use of U.S. military action. Our diplomatic personnel and partners must first attempt to resolve the threat by pressuring the Taliban/Afghan military to neutralize the threat. The Taliban (the new Afghan government) should desire to eliminate large threats to the United States to keep the U.S. military out of Afghanistan and retain whatever political power they may regain after the withdrawal of U.S. military assets.
The level of threat to the security of the nation is substantial.
a. The U.S. must only take continued military action in the region if the threat posed to the U.S. is critical. We must not involve our military for every low-level threat or activity that may fester in the region. If a substantial threat is identified and our existing in country assets remain unable to neutralize the threat, we must take a measured approach to determine the viability of the threat from whichever organization, group, or individual that operates in the region.
Surety of Action.
a. Let there be no doubt that, should an existential threat to the United States reemerge in Afghanistan, the U.S, in coordination with our allies and partners, will not hesitate to take decisive and overwhelming action to eliminate any and all threats to the security and prosperity of our nation.

2. Democratic Values: ACNSL’s second “red line” discusses the need to withdraw from Afghanistan while ensuring that the Afghan government does not revert back to a dictatorship. The peace agreement must ensure that Afghanistan retains some form of constitutional government. However, the ACNSL believe that the Afghan people through a negotiation between the Taliban and the current Afghan government must determine whatever rights, laws, and exact structure of their government they maintain. The U.S. military must not remain in Afghanistan to ensure the Afghan people’s basic rights are protected and must leave it to the Afghan government to decide how to run their nation. While we realize that they may abandon some of the western ideals that the U.S. tried to impose on the country during the past 18 years, it is ultimately not the United States responsibility to ensure that every nation upholds all democratic ideals. Overall, ACNSL’s Democratic Values red line requires that the Afghan government retain some fashion of a constitutional government at the time of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

3. Continued U.S. Commitment to Afghanistan: ACNSL’s third “red-line” embroils the necessity of long-term commitment to the people of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel and related assets. Continued commitment to the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan remains imperative for protecting U.S. security and economic interests in the region. Diplomatic commitment embraces our primary ideal of establishing long-term relations with Afghan officials. Leading a regional and international effort to support Afghanistan’s economic development provides the backbone of U.S. continued commitment by demonstrating to our Afghan partners that our continued interest in their prosperity is more than just a political statement. After the withdrawal of military personnel, the U.S. will remain committed to the security of the region by providing economic support and advising the Afghan military.

If Negotiations Fail

1) In the event that the U.S. fails to achieve an agreeable peace deal with the Taliban, it is necessary for an appropriate level of U.S. military personnel to remain in Afghanistan to protect our national security interests. A complete military withdrawal paired with a “no-deal” would likely result in an internal civil war, increased instability in the region and leave various internal and external factions working to expand their influence at the expense of U.S. national interests.

2) Without a minimal presence of U.S. military personnel to support the Afghan military, the Taliban and other terror groups will be empowered to expand their foothold leaving the Afghan military unable to effectively combat these groups which will inevitably lead to a civil war.

3) The increased instability and rising terrorist threat would not only affect the security and interests of the U.S., but that of our allies and partners in the region. In the case of a no-deal, the U.S. military must not completely withdraw from Afghanistan, but should reevaluate troop levels to determine the smallest necessary amount of personnel required to remain in Afghanistan to maintain our national security interests and prevent terror groups from gaining a renewed foothold in the region.

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