A New Course for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan

Barnett Rubin discussed the Task Force recommendations and the new administration's plan for Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Barnett Rubin discussed the Task Force recommendations and the new administration's plan for Afghanistan-Pakistan.

NEW YORK, April 2, 2009 – A new task force report from the Asia Society calls for a comprehensive reformulation of US policy in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It recommends addressing the conflict in Afghanistan with a regional approach, focusing on neighboring Pakistan, strengthening the current civilian government and putting an end to militant and insurgent groups.

The Asia Society’s independent Task Force Report "Back From the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan" suggests strategies for combating growing counterinsurgencies and a number of proposals on changing the current strategy for aid to give Afghans more control of the process.

Asia Society provided the report to President Barack Obama's administration before he unveiled his new strategy on Afghanistan in late March. Task force Co-Chair Barnett Rubin said one way the report differed from the Obama plan was that it “had little in terms of military strategy,” focusing more on political solutions.

Rubin said the United States has focused too heavily on Afghanistan, overlooking Pakistan, whose tribal areas have become safe havens for al Qaida. "The regional center of gravity of the problem is not in Afghanistan," Rubin argued.

Citing the immediate need for a substantial change of policy, British diplomat Lord Paddy Ashdown, member of the House of Lords and Senior Advisor to G3, emphasized the need for an interlocking and comprehensive plan that would unify military and aid strategy from the international community to better support the Afghan government.

Rubin highlighted the regional dimension of the efforts to achieve stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, pointing out that Iran and China have a mutual interest in addressing instability in Pakistan.

Panelist Ambassador Francesc Vendrell, Diplomat-in-Residence and Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, talked about the importance of ensuring a legitimate constitutional transition of presidential power during the upcoming elections.

The panel agreed that the addition of economic, political, and diplomatic initiatives in the US administration’s approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan would help redress the over-militarization of the conflict, which has detracted from efforts to promote stability in the region. The conversation was moderated by Steve Coll, President and CEO of New America Foundation.

Additional reporting from Mitchell Cook, Asia Society New York