Michael O'Hanlon

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de Abril de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base.CreditCreditJames Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »

After witnessing the depravity of the North Korean regime in the death of the American student Otto Warmbier and Pyongyang’s successful long-range missile test on Tuesday, Washington must nonetheless evaluate any possible opportunity for capping and ultimately dismantling the country’s nuclear and long-range missile forces with an open mind.

A North Korea with 30, 50 or 100 nuclear bombs and the ability to deliver them to the United States (and perhaps a desire to sell them, too) would be much more dangerous than the current situation, in which Pyongyang possesses perhaps one to two dozen bombs and an unreliable means of delivering them.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. troops arrive at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on Tuesday. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

For a leader who has been criticized for trying to rush out of wars to satisfy campaign promises, President Obama has been relatively resolute in Afghanistan. To be sure, he reduced U.S. forces there faster than some (including us) believed optimal starting in July 2011 — but only after having tripled the number of troops there during the first two years of his presidency. And the drawdown did not begin until he worked with coalition partners at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon to extend the mission from 2011 to 2014, a horizon extended again last year. Beyond that, while he declared an end to the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year, he also authorized Americans to continue to participate in numerous difficult and dangerous operations, including counterterrorism activities in support of Afghan forces, when needed.…  Seguir leyendo »

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

On Feb. 9, a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan’s Helmand province killed Abdul Rauf, an Islamic State leader attempting to spread the would-be caliphate’s influence into South Asia. While key operational details have not been made public, we can make reasonable educated guesses based on past patterns: Most likely, the drone flew out of Kandahar Airfield, some 60 miles away , after days or weeks of surveillance by other unmanned aircraft. Further, some of the information used to find Rauf may have come from a joint U.S.-Afghan special forces raid against an al-Qaeda leader, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti, in Nangarhar province in October.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recent reports of more troop and equipment movements into the separatist-held regions of Ukraine suggest that Russia is once again seeking to stir up trouble. The natural Western reaction has been to respond with firmness. Sanctions may be tightened; defensive weaponry may be provided to Ukraine’s underequipped and overmatched military. Given such bullying Russian tactics, this reaction is not only natural but perhaps inevitable.

Yet the Western policy response is half-wrong, and the incorrect part of it risks making 2015 just as bad a year for Ukrainian security and East-West relations as was 2014. Western policymakers do not deserve blame for the unconscionable tactics that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin has employed in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Como las fricciones territoriales entre China y muchos de sus vecinos persisten en los mares de la China Oriental y de la China Meridional, los Estados Unidos deben tener una estrategia regional más clara. Deben defender sus intereses y compromisos de alianzas y evitar una confrontación contraproducente o incluso un conflicto.

Será difícil, sobre todo porque no está claro a quién se deben reconocer los derechos a las islas disputadas de esa región y sus afloramientos y los Estados Unidos no tienen la intención de intentar imponer una solución. Al mismo tiempo, los EE.UU. deben modernizar sus fuerzas armadas como reacción a nuevas amenazas, en particular el ascenso de China.…  Seguir leyendo »

How can anyone possibly argue that President Obama’s plan to have all operational U.S. military forces out of Afghanistan by the end of his presidency is a mistake? By then, Obama will have presided over eight years of military engagement there, on top of President Bush’s seven and a half. The effort will be far and away the United States’ longest war, whether one defines the endpoint as this December’s termination of NATO’s combat operation or as the 2016 completion of the Enduring Force mission that will begin immediately thereafter.

The problem with this way of thinking is in the premise.…  Seguir leyendo »

What is going on with President Hamid Karzai? The world’s only superpower, leading a coalition of some 50 nations, is willing to stay on in his country after a war that has already lasted a dozen years and cost the United States more than $600 billion and more than 2,000 fatalities — and yet the Afghan president keeps throwing up roadblocks.

The latest insult is his decision to hold off on signing a bilateral security agreement, the legal basis for American forces to remain in his country past 2014, on the grounds that his successor should have that prerogative next year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nothing about the international response to North Korea’s third nuclear test in February or subsequent provocations has been unreasonable. The crisis is entirely of Pyongyang’s making. But it is possible that the hard-line approach taken by Washington, Seoul and other capitals to the North Korean bluster, brinkmanship and bombast has been far less than optimal.

We need a firm policy. North Korea must pay a price for its irresponsible and dangerous behavior, and know that the world is united in standing against it. The resolve must begin with the U.S.-South Korean military alliance but extend to other nations, most notably China, North Korea’s only ally and main benefactor.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Afghanistan is a slog at best. Even those of us supporting the mission there must acknowledge that it has been slower, harder going than expected. With Osama bin Laden dead and other al Qaeda leaders also out of the picture (or out of the region) the original motivation for the effort seems less compelling to many as well.

But the United States should not lose patience. Because we already have an exit strategy to remove most NATO troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, no one need worry too much about a possible quagmire. Beyond that, there are good reasons to think that even if this mission does not achieve its loftiest earlier goals, it likely can attain the minimal acceptable requirement: preventing a Taliban return to power and a major al Qaeda presence on Afghan soil.…  Seguir leyendo »

The key trends of the war in Afghanistan can be summarized fairly simply. The hard part is figuring out what they collectively add up to. The muddled picture no doubt contributed to recent poll results showing that two-thirds of Americans oppose their country’s involvement in the conflict. Afghans themselves seem confused; according to a 2011 Asia Foundation poll, 73 percent of citizens support their national government (and even higher percentages their army and police), but only 46 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction.

Here is what we know: Afghans are wealthier, healthier and better educated than ever before.…  Seguir leyendo »

To contain Iran, or to preempt? That is, at present, the question. President Obama’s recent dismissal of containment as an option would seem to stack the deck. Unless Iran pauses its uranium enrichment activities, an Israeli or U.S. strike against its nuclear facilities looks likely by next year.

Containment always looks better in theory, or in retrospect, than it works in practice. Our four-decade containment of the Soviet Union included several near misses, including the Berlin crisis and the Cuban missile crisis. And given the Iranian regime’s willingness to resort to terror tactics — even on U.S. soil — and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s purported remarks about wiping Israel off the map, there are clear downsides to relying on Iranian rationality that the regime can be deterred.…  Seguir leyendo »

For six decades the United States has planned for the capacity to conduct two nearly simultaneous major ground-combat operations. During the Cold War, one of those campaigns was assumed to be an all-out struggle against the Warsaw Pact in Europe, the other a conflict in Asia. Since the Cold War, defense secretaries Dick Cheney, Les Aspin, William Perry, William Cohen, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates have adopted some variant of this framework as well. It is time for a change.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s new strategic guidance, unveiled Thursday, moves in this direction, stating that the future U.S. military “will be capable of defeating a major act of aggression in one theater while denying the objectives of — or imposing unacceptable costs on — an opportunistic aggressor in a second theater.”…  Seguir leyendo »

In the last two weeks, an Afghan police officer killed two American Marines in Helmand Province, and another killed a British soldier after a dispute over a soccer match. Last month, an Afghan military pilot killed nine American military trainers after an argument at a meeting in Kabul.

None of the killers seem to have been Taliban infiltrators, but that alone is not terribly reassuring. The United States’ exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan depends largely on the performance, competence and trustworthiness of the Afghan security forces, and critics of the mission view such episodes as evidence that the Afghan forces are generally unreliable — ineffectual in combat and too often unmotivated, erratic or corrupt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistan arguably remains the most complex ally the United States has ever had in wartime – far more humane than Josef Stalin in World War II but, alas, even more inscrutable. Nine years into the campaign, we still cannot clearly answer the question of whether Pakistan is with us or against us. The killing of Osama bin Laden brings the situation into even starker relief: Despite routinely requesting overflight rights from allies and other countries around the world when conducting military operations, the United States did not do so in this case out of serious concern that Pakistan might not be able to keep the secret and bin Laden might get away.…  Seguir leyendo »

How is it really going in Afghanistan? In his recent testimony before Congress, Gen. David H. Petraeus reported substantial if fragile progress and conveyed a can-do attitude reflecting confidence about our prospects. Yet press reports and some organizations and individuals on the ground seem to grow more dispirited by the month. Is this mission really doable – and should we stick with it?

In fact, both supporters and critics of the current effort in Afghanistan make valid points. Based largely on a recent trip there under U.S. military auspices, we find the military gains promising. At the same time, the challenges of working with the Afghan and Pakistani governments remain severe, and the insurgency is proving very resilient.…  Seguir leyendo »

While Libya – as well as Egypt and Tunisia – continue to consume most of the American foreign policy debate’s available oxygen, other crucial issues remain at key moments of decision making themselves. Notably, Congress is now debating whether to fund ongoing State Department and development activities in Iraq next year. With all due respect to the new Congress, this should be an easy decision, as such efforts are necessary to solidify the progress experienced there over the last four years. But in fact, these programs and efforts are not enough – we really should keep modest numbers of troops, perhaps 10,000 to 20,000, in Iraq for perhaps two to three more years as well.…  Seguir leyendo »

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned on Sunday about a national rush to judgment that the Afghanistan war is somehow failing and that the overall narrative about the war has become too negative. That was practically an era ago regarding Afghanistan, but Gates is still right. With the drama over Wednesday’s change of command receding, it is time to refocus on policy.

Several recent critiques paint only part of the picture, and they are often more wrong than right unless they are presented with greater nuance. Consider:

The «Kandahar offensive» is delayed. This complaint is strange: The U.S. troop buildup remains slightly ahead of schedule (95,000 soldiers are in Afghanistan, an increase of nearly 30,000 this year), and a major offensive in the classic sense was never promised in Kandahar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Just four days after President Obama’s surprise visit to Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a major speech complaining that heavy-handed international actions tarnished last year’s presidential election, diminished his legitimate status as clear winner and risked making the foreign military presence resemble the imperialist invaders of yesteryear.

Karzai went too far. His comments were unfair and risked encouraging critics of the Afghanistan mission who want to portray foreign forces as unwelcome. But his remarks were also a predictable result of American browbeating. Historically, negative treatment of the Afghan leader has produced these sorts of reactions. Kabul and Washington are partners in the effort to create a stable, democratic state; they should understand that public displays of rancor are best avoided.…  Seguir leyendo »

What are Americans to make of all the good news coming out of Pakistan in recent weeks?

First, the Afghan Taliban’s military chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was arrested in a raid in February. Around the same time, several of the Taliban’s “shadow governors” who operate out of Pakistan were captured by Pakistani forces. Last week, the C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta, announced that thanks in large part to increased cooperation from Pakistan, drone strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are “seriously disrupting Al Qaeda,” and one killed the terrorist suspected of planning an attack on an American base in December that caused the deaths of seven Americans.…  Seguir leyendo »