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Burden in Afghanistan Needs to Be Shared with Europeans

Without support, either U.S. troops will have to stay in Afghanistan or leave a state likely to fail, says MU expert

Dec. 02, 2009

Story Contact(s):
Kelsey Jackson, JacksonKN@missouri.edu, (573) 882-8353

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

A. Cooper Drury, Associate Professor of at the Department of Political Science of MU, is selected to become the Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy Analysis.

A. Cooper Drury, Associate Professor of at the Department of Political Science of MU, is selected to become the Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy Analysis.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Last night, President Barack Obama announced his plan to send an additional 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and then begin withdrawing them in 2011. Now, experts question whether the policy is a wise move for the United States. University of Missouri foreign policy expert Cooper Drury says that Afghanistan poses a real problem for the United States because there is no real long-term, stable solution amenable to American interests and to avoid the worst-case scenario, United States must either share the burden of an indefinite troop presence with the Europeans or insulate itself and its allies from troubled Afghanistan.

“President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan is being driven by a desire to keep the country from slipping back into a terrorist haven and from it becoming a greater threat to Pakistani stability,” said Drury, who is editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Analysis and associate professor of political science in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Both of these concerns are legitimate, but the only way to ensure the worst-case scenario does not develop in Afghanistan is to maintain a large combat presence there indefinitely.  This is an untenable position for the United States unless it shares the burden with the Europeans as we have in Bosnia and Kosovo.  Of course, the Europeans are unlikely to agree to such a sharing agreement, in part because the United States has announced it will send 30,000 new troops.”

While there are many similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam, such as questionable local government and a non-traditional opponent, there are more significant differences between the two situations, Drury said.

“First, all of the presidents since Johnson and Nixon have had the opportunity to learn from Vietnam,” Drury said.  “President Obama knows that he must maintain minimal public and Congressional support, he must have a clear exit strategy, and he must listen to the military leaders and let them do their jobs. He seems to be doing each of these.  Second, the Taliban seeks only an inhumane, totalitarian rule, and it does not have the support of another superpower.  Thus, they are a less legitimate and less well-equipped threat but still dangerous.”

“We will only know the true value of President Obama’s decision in the months to come, but it is likely that we will either have to stay in Afghanistan or leave behind a state that is likely to fail,” Drury said. “We should instead seek to insulate ourselves and our allies from the problems in Afghanistan.”

Drury is editor-in-chief of the journal Foreign Policy Analysis and associate professor of political science in the MU College of Arts and Science. His research focuses on foreign policy analysis and economic sanctions. He has published more than a dozen articles and two books on foreign policy.

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