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Afghanistan Study Group Report Released

The Center for the Study of the Presidency has released their Afghanistan Study Group Report (PDF), warning that gains made in Afghanistan beyond Kabul against al-Qaeda and the Taliban risk being lost without an influx of forces and a unified international approach.

We believe that success in Afghanistan remains a critical national security imperative for the United States and the international community. Achieving that success will require a sustained, multi-year commitment from the U.S. and a willingness to make the war in Afghanistan – and the rebuilding of that country – a higher U.S. foreign policy priority. Although the obstacles there remain substantial, the strategic consequences of failure in Afghanistan would be severe for long-term U.S. interests in the region and for security at home. Allowing the Taliban to re-establish its influence in Afghanistan, as well as failure to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a failed state, would not only undermine the development of the country, it would constitute a major victory for al-Qaeda and its global efforts to spread violence and extremism.

The “light footprint” in Afghanistan needs to be replaced with the “right footprint” by the U.S. and its allies. It is time to re-vitalize and re-double our efforts toward stabilizing Afghanistan and re-think our economic and military strategies to ensure that the level of our commitment is commensurate with the threat posed by possible failure in Afghanistan. Without the right level of commitment on the part of the U.S., its allies, and Afghanistan’s neighbors, the principles agreed upon by both the Afghan government and the international community at the 2006 London Conference and the goals stated in the Afghanistan Compact will not be achievable. Additionally, recent events in Pakistan further emphasize that there can be no successful outcome for Afghanistan if its neighbors, especially Pakistan, are not part of the solution.

Unfortunately, a stable Afghanistan has not been in Pakistan's interests. Not before the events of September 11, 2001, and not after. This does not make the report incorrect, but illustrates, as the authors themselves understand, that enlisting Pakistan in Afghan support is a tall order.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as quoted in a TIME magazine article on the report, looks at Afghanistan with less alarm, accompanied by frustration toward European NATO allies' flagging commitment and will in the Afghanistan mission.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was not familiar with the study's findings, but he struck a more optimistic tone on Afghanistan's future.

"I would say that the security situation is good," Gates told The Associated Press. "We want to make sure it gets better, and I think there's still a need to coordinate civil reconstruction, the economic development side of it."

Gates said more troops are needed in Afghanistan, but "certainly not ours." When asked how many more NATO troops might be needed, he said that number should be determined by ground commanders.

ThreatsWatch has not yet completed digesting the Afghanistan Study Group report. We will release a distilled analysis once that process is complete.

2 Comments

I have not begun even a cursory reading of the report. However, the premature declaration of the demise of the Taliban, coupled with the collective inability or unwillingness to understand the tribal influences on the stability of the Karzai government, have troubled me for some time.

Definitely a thorny problem. Afghanistan's terrain is not Iraq's terrain.

The Senate Foreign Relations Cmte just had a hearing on what might be done differently in Afghanistan.