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The Bush Doctrine and Operations in Afghanistan. PO 326: American Foreign Policy. Whom to Fight?.

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The Bush Doctrine and Operations in Afghanistan

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The Bush Doctrine and Operations in Afghanistan

PO 326: American Foreign Policy


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Whom to Fight?

  • The Bush Doctrine indicated America’s willingness to use force against states to combat terrorism, but was vague in its indication of precisely which actors would be the targets of American military action (Afghanistan? “Axis of Evil”? Countries in which fundamentalist terrorism is rampant?)

  • Some important questions:

    • Would it truly be a “war on terror,” or just against Al-Qaeda and its obvious supporters?

    • What would actual American operations look like?

    • How would America’s allies and other important states factor in?

  • Though Bush declares his overarching doctrine with little expert input, he relies extensively on his advisers to answer these questions


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Formulating a Plan of Action

  • Immediately following 9/11, there is no “off the shelf” plan for counterterrorism abroad, but there are several general views held by various foreign policy actors

    • Extensive meetings of “principals,” often with president absent

  • CIA (Tenet): Al-Qaeda and Taliban should be primary targets, and Afghanistan primary battleground

    • CIA paramilitaries deployed with Northern Alliance; link up with US Special Ops forces to create united northern front

      • “Exceptional authority” to be granted to CIA operatives

    • Attempt to “smoke out” Bin Laden supporters

    • Covert attack on Al-Qaeda finances

    • “Buy off” limited Taliban opposition in south

  • CJCS (Shelton): Three options in Afghanistan

    • Cruise missile attacks against al-Qaeda bases

    • Option 1 plus manned bomber attacks against bases

    • Options 1 and 2 plus “boots on the ground” (Special Ops, Army, Marines)


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Formulating a Plan of Action

  • State (Powell): KISS

    • Warns against extension of war; focus on al-Qaeda and Afghanistan first

    • Avoid unilateralism (initial support by Bush, Cheney)

    • Avoid any discussion of Iraq at outset; will cost support

    • Overall, military operations to be only part of longer-term diplomatic effort

  • Defense (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz): Broader views

    • Emphasize that Afghanistan and even al-Qaeda are not our only enemies; advocate global dimension of war on terror

    • Iraq must be considered an enemy at the outset (Wolfowitz); WMD presents threat to US, should be addressed

      • Defense believes simultaneous involvement in two major conflicts is possible

    • Rumsfeld dislikes military options presented by Shelton; “unimaginative;” wants better defined role for revamped military (global role of special forces, etc.), and sees war as opportunity to accomplish this

  • Chief of Staff (Card): Simultaneous attacks on terrorists across globe

  • NSA (Rice): Coordinator of viewpoints; closest to president, she often is his conduit to principals’ discussions


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Afghanistan: Considerations

  • In Afghanistan, the administration faces a country that presents some daunting hurdles

    • History of holding out against more powerful countries (UK in 19th Century, USSR in 20th)

    • History of fundamentalism (e.g., Mujahadin), but it is largely imported

    • Paragon of geographic inhospitality – one reason it is chosen by Bin Laden as sanctuary

    • Political situation is problematic; Taliban is de facto ruling party (after lengthy civil war with Northern Alliance), but Northern Alliance is still fighting and al-Qaeda is thoroughly intertwined with Taliban

      • Uneasy coexistence of Arabs and Afghans; Taliban/al-Qaeda domination in Kabul and south, Northern Alliance and Pashtun opposition remains in north – provides both problems (finding enemy) and opportunity (getting others to fight on the ground)


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Afghanistan: Laying the Groundwork

  • Despite problems of strategy/potential costs, Afghanistan chosen as initial target (need for action, “blank check”)

    • Administration does, however, make clear that operations in Afghanistan are only part of a larger war on all terrorist organizations (Presidential Directive #9)

    • Iraq question temporarily put aside

  • Bush approves all of Tenet’s suggestions, delivers ultimatum to Taliban to turn over Bin Laden or face consequences

    • Administration hopes that the threat of US action will create “fissures” in the Taliban, separating them (or at least moderate portions) from al-Qaeda

    • Bush freezes al-Qaeda’s financial assets by executive order


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Afghanistan: Laying the Groundwork

  • The question of international coalition building (“Powell Doctrine”)

    • Invocation of NATO Article 5; but what role would allies play?

    • Favorability of maintaining international support, though burden-sharing less of a concern than moral support and basing (Bush repeatedly states that the US will “go it alone” if necessary)

      • US seeks basing rights in nearby countries, some of which have large fundamentalist populations (Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Oman, Qatar, etc.), and tacit support from other powers (Russia, NATO)

      • Ultimatum to Taliban eases the way to coalition-building amongst Arab states, but removal of Taliban problematic (esp. for Saudis and Pakistanis)

  • Taliban does not respond to ultimatum (hopes of splitting allegiance dashed), and American action becomes necessary


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Preparing for War: Strategy Dictating Operations, or Vice Versa?

  • Despite international issues, the “consequences” decided upon become removal from power of the Taliban

  • Main approach: Get opposition forces to do most of the ground work, thus limiting the intrusiveness and danger of large-scale US troop involvement (Soviet failure)

    • Problem: Want to do this without re-installing Northern Alliance, which might lead to difficulties and further instability

      • This meant that the US would seek Northern Alliance troop support for its activities, but would try at the same time to “put a leash” on their full fury – becomes a difficult balancing act


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Preparing for War: Strategy Dictating Operations, or Vice Versa?

  • Military operations: Hopes and obstacles

    • CIA paramilitary and US special ops seek to mobilize anti-Taliban Pashtun and Northern Alliance in North against Taliban and are necessary to mark targets for US bombing, but money needed and allegiance uncertain (strong Taliban defenses, Russian problems)

    • Introduction of overall military buildup and special ops, limited ground troops, air campaign in North necessary, but held up due to Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) issues, basing negotiations, scant number of targets

      • CIA claims that bombing alone would destroy Taliban, but Bush wishes to avoid weak “Clintonian” response

      • In the South, more difficulty in finding friendly Afghans


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Preparing for War: Strategy Dictating Operations, or Vice Versa?

  • Associated Considerations:

    • Necessity of limiting collateral damage, not alienating Afghan people; humanitarian aid needed

      • Means engaging in “nation-building,” something Bush wanted to avoid in 2000 but which would become crucial to war on terror

    • Concerns of retaliation by al-Qaeda on US homeland

    • What would Afghanistan’s postwar government look like?

  • In the end, the perceived need for action drives the Bush Administration into beginning the Afghan campaign before these obstacles and considerations are fully resolved; in a sense, then, the overall strategy results as a product of the progress of the war, and not the other way around


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The Conduct of the War: The Opening Assault

  • As per DoD’s plans, the US opens air campaign against Taliban positions on 7 October 2001

    • Limited number of targets, and initial failure to destroy all of them; some frustration in first few weeks

    • Focus also on Taliban positions in Mazar-e Sharif, Shamili Plains

    • Covert ops are largely CIA’s through this point; special ops (DoD) are not on ground (tension between bureaus)

      • CIA is attempting to both solidify Northern Alliance support and hold them back

    • Attacks on areas in western Afghanistan aimed at Bin Laden

  • In second week, US seeks to get teams into the south by contacting Pashtuns (Karzai), but this proves difficult

  • Special Forces finally arrive at end of second week of bombing, but initial actions seem to embolden rather than weaken Taliban; leads to public concern that larger-scale troop involvement is necessary (“Americanizing” the war)


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The Conduct of The War: Intensification and Quick Resolution

  • Due to concerns about progress (especially given the coming winter), the US steps up the conflict during its second month, but does not “Americanize” it

    • Intensifies bombing of Taliban front-line positions and eastern areas, moving forward from predesignated target list to positions identified by CIA (problems with collateral damage)

    • Inserts more Special Ops teams

    • Most importantly, the US “turns loose” the full force of the Northern Alliance and Pashtun forces against the Taliban in early November; Mazar is taken with American bombing and Special Ops support, and Taliban support begins to crumble and they flee south

      • Southern opposition forces begin to coalesce, make headway

    • Northern Alliance moves on Kabul while administration debates whether or not they should; city falls in mid November

    • Kandahar (southern city) falls to opposition in early December; Taliban is effectively ousted

    • All accomplished with little solicitation of or assistance by European allies


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The Issue of Postwar Rule

  • US seeks to negotiate with opposition groups for the purposes of putting together a coalition replacement government

  • Agreement to settle upon Karzai as leader of coalition, a Pashtun moderate with broad contacts and appeal to most concerned parties

  • American special forces, CIA remain in Afghanistan to smoke out Bin Laden and remaining al-Qaeda in the east (near Pakistani border)


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A Review of the First Round of the “War on Terror”

  • Afghanistan is initial focus, but administration makes clear it desire to maintain global aspect of war

  • Afghan operations seek immediate results, but administration is constrained by problems associated with large-scale US troop involvement (Vietnam); results in strategy stemming from success of operations, not other way around

    • Because it advocates global war and because military operations determine strategy, the stage is set for heavy DoD influence over war on terror; State, with its focus on diplomacy and caution, is relegated to secondary importance (would be crucial in future)

    • Joint CIA/DoD involvement in operations sets tone for “new” type of war

    • Despite initial misgivings, Northern Alliance tapped to do the groundwork

  • Beginnings of American unilateralism in operations, despite widespread international support

  • Deposal of Taliban in line with dictates of Bush Doctrine; how would the Doctrine be utilized in future stages of war on terror?


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