Back from the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan

American interests and objectives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus remain critically important to U.S. security, but U.S. policy must be grounded in a realistic understanding of what is achievable. An Asia Society task force report published in April 2009 outlines a comprehensive reformulation of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the context of the rapidly deteriorating situation in both countries.

The report, Back from the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan/Pakistan, presents a set of policy recommendations that integrate counterterrorism, governance, economic development, and regional objectives to achieve lasting stability in the region. Specific priorities proposed by the task force include:

  • Explicitly ending the rhetorical emphasis on the “war on terror” and defining our enemy as those who attacked our nation—al-Qaeda and its allies
  • Ending Operation Enduring Freedom, the counterterrorism command in Afghanistan, because al-Qaeda's sanctuary shifted to Pakistan
  • Separating funding for Afghanistan, including for security forces, from funding for Iraq
  • Engaging with the Afghan government and the United Nations to ensure an accepted and legitimate constitutional transition of presidential power and a more effective government
  • Transfer assistance to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and security duties to official institutions, Afghan and international, as soon as possible, consistent with transparency and fiduciary oversight
  • Combating narcotics
  • Supporting reform and institutional capacity-building efforts in Pakistan
  • Focusing regional policy on creating conditions for the transformation of Pakistan’s security doctrine so that it no longer requires the use of covertly supported guerrilla forces against neighbors
  • Establishing regular dialogue and exchanges over Afghanistan and Pakistan with Russia, China, India, Iran, Turkey, the Central Asian states, and Saudi Arabia, seeking a means of cooperation with them in conjunction with NATO allies and other international partners

The co-chairs of the task force for this report were Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills & Company and Former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow, Center for International Cooperation, New York University.