ND Expert: Strategy for moving forward is most important factor in Afghanistan withdrawal

by Shannon Chapla

David Cortright

As President Obama prepares to announce plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, David Cortright, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, says the strategy going forward is more important than the number of troops that will depart.

Author of “Ending Obama’s War: Responsible Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Cortright hopes Obama announces a plan for assuring that Afghanistan does not descend into civil war or succumb to Taliban takeover as U.S. forces depart, as well as how the U.S. can uphold human rights and preserve the gains of Afghan women.

“Demilitarizing the conflict in Afghanistan is necessary, but military withdrawal by itself is not sufficient,” Cortright says. “The military drawdown must be linked to an alternative strategy that prioritizes political negotiation, interim security protection, continued social development, and diplomatic cooperation among neighboring states.”

Cortright says a critical unanswered question is how to avoid a security vacuum as U.S. forces leave.

“International experts have proposed an enforcement mechanism or interim security force to protect civilians and enforce a negotiated ceasefire,” he says. “Taliban leaders have proposed a ‘Muslim-led’ force and have vowed not to attack it. This idea deserves serious consideration.

“Equally important is ensuring that Afghan women are not thrown under the bus as U.S. forces leave,” he continues. “The women of Afghanistan are demanding meaningful representation in all peace discussions, including negotiations with the Taliban. The U.S. and its allies must pledge to provide continued funding for programs to provide schooling, health care and development opportunities for Afghan women and men.

Cortright testified last month in Washington about the effect of the war on Afghan women.

The author or editor of 17 books, Cortright has advised various agencies of the United Nations, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, the International Peace Academy and the MacArthur Foundation.

Media Advisory: Cortright’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He is available for interviews and can be reached at 574-631-8536 or dcortrig@nd.edu