Abstract

When the war in Afghanistan ended in 2002, the country was largely governed by Afghans. This result came about because, rather than inserting thousands of troops into the country, the United States fought the war using a new type of military operation that relied on special forces, airpower, and Afghan allies. In the operation, approximately fifty U.S. special forces personnel accomplished what planners had believed would require 50,000 U.S. ground troops. In the wake of the war, military planners largely dismissed the Afghan model as unworkable elsewhere. The performance of the model in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, however, illustrates that the traditional military's pessimism toward this method is unwarranted. The Afghan model vastly improves U.S. leverage in coercive diplomacy and war because it requires few U.S. ground troops and facilitates the transition to stability and democracy by empowering indigenous allies.

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