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Principles for an Afghanistan Strategy

Afghanistan
When the Obama Administration began 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. We begin from the premise that the situation in the United States, and the history and dynamics of the region, require a sharp differentiation between objectives that we might like to achieve and a baseline of what must be achieved for our national interests and our moral obligations – to our military, our citizens and the people of Afghanistan.
Read the full paper: The Progressive Approach: Afghanistan »

Afghanistan

A Political Strategy for Afghanistan

Report 23 February 2011
 

In a speech last week introducing Ambassador Grossman - who will replace the late Richard Holbrooke as U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added a third component to previously laid out military and civilian "surges": a political surge aimed at opening meaningful talks with the Taliban as part of a broader effort to forge a political solution to the war. The New Yorker's Steve Coll reports that those talks are underway, and a new study of Taliban-Al Qaeda relations suggests there is room for the talks to succeed.  But in order for them to succeed, military operations must support political ends - and, as military commanders have said repeatedly, funding for diplomatic and political efforts must survive Congress's budget process intact.

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Afghanistan

A Growing Consensus on Afghanistan

Report 16 December 2010
Today, the Obama administration released its strategy review of the war in Afghanistan. The review shows fragile progress in the military campaign against the Taliban, as well as robust actions against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan - but has less to say about civilian and political milestones. Over recent months, a consensus has quietly emerged among experts across the centrist-realist-progressive spectrum on a way forward in Afghanistan. This consensus recognizes the importance of military gains but promotes the primacy of political efforts, looks ahead to a military drawdown and promises to be more effective, more sustainable - and less costly.  This fall, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for American Progress, the Afghanistan Study Group and the Center for a New American Security all issued reports on Afghanistan that - perhaps surprisingly - largely agreed on the eight central points below.
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Afghanistan

Nine Years On, a Responsible Strategy in Afghanistan

Report 7 October 2010
Today marks the ninth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history.  Washington owes Americans and Afghans alike a responsible strategy for achieving its core goals:  preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda while also ensuring regional stability in South Asia. General Petraeus and other leaders have said about the conflict, "Military action is necessary, but it is not sufficient"; encouraging negotiations among Afghans is one crucial piece of the ultimate solution in Afghanistan.  A plan to transition from the current level of combat to a situation where Afghans take responsibility and Americans start to come home is another.  The Bush administration's unnecessary war in Iraq drew time and focus away from Afghanistan. Today, as the administration and Congress debate the way forward, it is striking that conservative leaders have little or nothing to say about the road ahead.
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Afghanistan

Going into Afghan Elections, Mounting Debate at Home

Report 17 September 2010
Tomorrow, more than 10 million Afghans will participate in the elections for the lower house of Parliament, the Wolesi Jirga - the first Afghan national election since the flawed and controversial presidential election last year.  As in the past, experts and military commanders expect to see a "surge in violence" to coincide with the vote, often with symbols of the elections as the specific targets. 

Afghan authorities have made some real and meaningful electoral reforms over the past year that have resulted in positive improvements on the ground.  But serious obstacles remain, including voter disenfranchisement, a lack of political parties, fraud and disillusionment.  Against this  backdrop, a robust debate is taking place in Washington and across America on the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and our strategy in the region. 

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Afghanistan

A Better ASG

News Center for a New American Security 12 September 2010
Afghanistan

Leaks Show Need for Responsible Afghanistan Debate

Report 27 July 2010
A day after the release of thousands of documents shedding new light on America's nine year effort in Afghanistan, it has become clear that Congress will take up the debate. Though there is recognition that the deterioration depicted in the documents represent the consequences of years of neglect by the Bush administration, the release of these documents cannot help but invite new scrutiny of the war. As Council on Foreign Relations expert on South Asia Daniel Markey remarked, "[w]hether WikiLeaks uncovered anything new isn't actually important - it's on the front page of every newspaper in the country; the media is now focused on Afghanistan, and that makes it a big deal." The job of Congress, and serious analysts, is to sort through the chatter to the key questions:  the state of the Afghan Security Forces, corruption, Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan, the best way to define conditions that allow the US to wind down its military commitment and pursue the ultimate objective of defeating the extremist threat.   Americans deserve better than a warmed-over shouting match over an endless military commitment to Afghanistan, desired neither by the military nor the American public.
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Afghanistan

Making Sense of the Leaks

Report 26 July 2010
Last night an archive of classified military documents spanning six years was made public by the organization WikiLeaks through the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel.  The documents bring new depth and vividness to the challenges the U.S. faced in Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 2004- December 2009.  The documents highlight the consequences of the Bush administration choices to neglect the war in Afghanistan and offer Pakistan's then-military regime military assistance without oversight.  And they provide painful details of the challenges and limitations our current strategy faces.  In sum, they are a potent reminder of the need for the administration to hold to its timetable and define the conditions necessary to bring the Afghan war to a successful and responsible close.
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Afghanistan

The Kabul Conference: Turning Aspiration Into Action

Report 20 July 2010

 

Delegates from 70 countries and organizations convened in Kabul today for a conference on the future of Afghanistan. The conference laid out an ambitious vision for transitioning full security responsibility to Afghan security forces by 2014, building capacity within the Afghan government, and a framework for re-integration and reconciliation with elements of the insurgency. But for meaningful progress to take place, the agenda must be translated into action on the ground.

 

Domestic unease with developments in Afghanistan is growing, as evidenced by declining enthusiasm for the war in recent polls, and mounting concern in Congress.  Domestic uncertainty, and the difficulty of translating aspirations into action makes it all the more important for the administration to define the conditions necessary for bringing the Afghan war to a successful close. This will require tough choices, which differentiate between what could be achieved in Afghanistan, and what must be achieved for the sake of the core U.S. objective: "to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies."

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Afghanistan

Talking with the Taliban

News The Guardian 20 July 2010