Tomorrow, President Obama will announce his plan for a reduction of American forces in Afghanistan starting next month. Reports indicate he will pledge to remove 30,000 “surge” troops by the end of 2012. That plan would begin a gradual but sustained transition and is broadly supported by commanders on the ground. These numbers exist in a broader context. Beginning the transition means recognizing the successes of the core counterterrorism mission -- with 20 of the top 30 terrorist targets in the region having been killed on Obama's watch. It means putting Afghans in the lead following an increase in resources that helped stabilize the situation after years of neglect. America’s commitment in Afghanistan has been costly and lengthy. Troop reductions will allow Afghans to take responsibility for their own country and begin to align American interests in the country with our commitment there.
The next challenge lies in the overall mission, military but above all political and economic. Troops that remain should focus on continuing to root out terrorists. The secondary focus for the security mission should be training Afghan security forces to take the lead in protecting their country. Importantly, making security gains last will require a renewed focus on a political solution, both between parties in Afghanistan and regionally; governance reforms; and fostering sustainable economic growth.
Today finds evidence that the U.S.-Pakistan operation that resulted in the capture of the Afghan Taliban's deputy commander has paid dividends. According to Reuters, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's interrogation, conducted by both U.S. and Pakistani officials, has resulted in intelligence, which has "been verified and has been useful to U.S. commanders and intelligence officers and analysts in both Afghanistan and Washington."
This week has seen a wave of successes for the Obama administration and our allies against extremists abroad. The capture of senior Taliban leadership this week has demonstrated that Obama administration is taking the fight to the extremists, with concrete results. Despite these successes conservatives see terrorism and national security as a political opportunity not a strategy to keep America safe.
This crisis is critical to the security of the United States. Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, has served as safe haven for al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, has frequently gone to war with India, and holds some of the keys to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Yet despite Pakistan’s critical importance, we are only now emerging from eight years without a comprehensive Pakistan strategy.
The Pakistani state is under threat not just from a growing insurgency,
but from tremendous political and economic instability as well. The
democratic government remains weak and the Pakistani economy teeters on
the brink of default. To help stabilize Pakistan, the Atlantic Council
recommends working to strengthen Pakistani democracy, engaging the
region, conditioning security assistance, and increasing development
As the Obama Administration begins a 60-day review of its Afghanistan strategy, a diverse group of progressive experts in development, counter-terrorism, regional politics and US politics came together to advise NSN on a set of principles that might guide both the Administration in building a new strategy and advocates in Congress, the media and the public in judging a proposed strategy.
As President Obama met with Secretary Gates to discuss the possibility of troop increases in Afghanistan, events underscored the terrible hand that the Bush administration dealt the new President. Rather than focus on Afghanistan, where the 9-11 attacks were plotted and where their planners took refuge, President Bush became distracted by Iraq. The resulting downward spiral is now the problem of the Obama Administration.
Despite attempts by the Bush administration to tout its legacy, it is very clear that President Bush is bequeathing his successor eight years of incompetence and failed policies that have left America significantly weaker.