But I am not really worried about who will pay for the Afghan government and its military after the transition is "complete" in 2014. Or 2013 as SecDef Panetta suggested this week, causing heaps of panic. The answer is: the US will. While there are huge deficit challenges ahead, dramatically reducing the forces in Afghanistan will provide ample savings so that a few billion dollars spent every year on the Afghan military will not be a problem in the short term.
No, there are much more important post-2014 concerns:
- How about a coup? The traditional excuse of a coup is an ineffective, corrupt government that is failing to support the military, especially if it is combating an internal threat. So, one could imagine the ANA launching a coup. What does NATO/US do about this, especially since there will be significant residual international forces still wandering around Afghanistan. Yes, that is right, no quick and easy exit like Iraq (as if that was quick and easy), as Afghanistan will negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that will allow the US and perhaps NATO to continue to station troops to assist the Afghans with logistics, intel, air support, transport, and just perhaps some special operations types.
- Oh yeah, what will these international forces be doing and how will they act when they are around ANA folks who either fight too weakly (running away from Taliban) or fight too hard (abusing people's rights)?
- Will the ANA hold itself together or fall apart, split and fight amongst themselves?
- Who will be the President of Afghanistan and what will they be trying to accomplish?
The future of Afghanistan has not yet been written (thanks, Doc Brown), and there is plenty to worry about. Who will pick up the bill is hardly the biggest mystery.