What does Bin Laden death mean for Afghan War?

With Osama Bin Laden announced two major arguments are developing over the war in Afghanistan. Some are arguing this means there is reason to end the war and bring the troops home – others see it as a reason to stay the course.

Former US State Department Foreign Service officer Matthew Hoh who worked in Afghanistan explained Bin Laden’s death brings a degree of closure to Americans who remember 9/11.

However, it is unclear if Congress will push a change in Afghanistan strategy.

We still have a long way to go in Afghanistan,” Hoh said. “There is no end in sight. We are stuck in a stalemate. Until we change our policies in Afghanistan that stalemate will continue.”

The war became more complex as the US involvement in a civil war grew, explained Hoh. Fighting the Taliban and rural Pashtuns placed the US on one side of a conflict internal to Afghanistan.

We had this doctrine of counter-insurgency,” he explained. “What we brought over to Afghanistan to win the war was this doctrine of counter-insurgency that we were going to show up, that we were going to add more troops, we were going to do things differently, we were going to power the government – all those good tents of counter-insurgency, connect the population to the government. However, we misread the conflict there. This is a civil war. This was a war that predated us.”

He explained that when America entered Afghanistan they entered a war that had been ongoing for 20 years. America inevitably removed one side from power and placed the other into power without addressing the root cause of the ongoing conflict.

“The war has gotten worse every year. The more troops we send to Afghanistan, the more money we spend in Afghanistan the insurgency gets larger and the Karzai government loses support,” explained Hoh. “These ideas that somehow were making progress in Afghanistan are, theses nothing more to say about them, but they are lies.”

The real focus should be diplomatic and civil, not military, Hoh argued.

The key is to help, not dictate,” he said.

The key is to bring other sides of the conflict into the government and facilitate change, not force it. The structure should be inclusive not exclusive. At present the system excludes a number of groups in Afghanistan who deserve a say in the government. Once you enable a stable political a focus on institutional building and development can be established.

RT blogger and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Diliberto explained America needs to look at both the short-term and long-term for Afghanistan, and bets Obama will begin to increase troop withdraws.

In terms of actually making serious policy decisions, I would bet my last dollar that there would be some degree of withdraws by this summer,” he said. “I don’t think it will be significant.”

Diliberto said it is unclear how many US troops would come home, but in the short-term some troops are likely to be withdrawn. In the long-term it likely a number of troops would remain in the country well into the future. He noted Bin Laden’s death would have some sort of impact on the ongoing conflict, but much remains unclear.