A new Asia Society Task Force report 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, argues that much of the effort in Afghanistan over recent years has been strategically unfocused and often counter-productive. Incremental changes alone, such as more troops or more aid, cannot address the monumental challenge that the U.S. faces in the region.
The United States must now focus on isolating and defeating Al Qaeda and eliminating their sanctuaries in the region by providing security for the Afghan population, providing for the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan and encouraging regional cooperation in support of the above goals.
Task Force Co-Chairs
Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills & Company; Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow, Center for International Cooperation, New York University
Jamie F. Metzl, Executive Vice President, Asia Society
Task Force Members
Peter Bergen, Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Vishakha N. Desai, President, Asia Society
Thomas E. Freston, Principal, Firefly3; Asia Society Trustee
Karl F. Inderfurth, John O. Rankin Professor, Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University; Former Assistant Secretary for State for South Asian Affairs
Ellen Laipson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Henry L. Stimson Center
Clare Lockhart, Co-founder and Director, Institute for State Effectiveness
M. Ishaq Nadiri, Jay Gould Professor of Economics, New York University
Ronald E. Neumann, President, American Academy of Diplomacy; Former Ambassador to Afghanistan
Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani Journalist and Author
Teresita Schaffer, Director, South Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia
Rory Stewart, Executive Director, Turquoise Mountain Foundation
Summary of Task Force Report Recommendations
American interests and objectives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus remain critically important to U.S. security and for addressing the threat Americans face from al-Qaida and its allies, but U.S. policy must be grounded in a realistic understanding of what is achievable.
Instead of separate commands between NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan should work in unison to defeat al-Qaida, to maximize the protection of the local population, and to train and support the national security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan for their counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions. The military effort will also require major changes in detention policies and the legal status of international forces and contractors.
On the political front, the Task Force report calls on the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek reconciliation with various insurgent elements willing to break with al-Qaida. This distinction between insurgents with local grievances who may still be amenable to joining a political process and those dedicated to a global jihad is a critical component to achieving regional stability and creating conditions for badly needed economic reconstruction and improved governance.
The Task Force report also addresses India-Pakistan relations as well as highlights an opening to Iran including over the issues of counter-narcotics, strategic dialogue over al-Qaida and the Taliban, and economic cooperation. In addition the report discusses the use of Iran as a logistical route for some supplies to Afghanistan which could both provide confidence building measures for other aspects of the U.S.-Iran relationship and impress on the Pakistani military that it has no permanent logistical monopoly on access to Afghanistan.
The report presents a comprehensive set of policy recommendations outlining a strategy that integrates counterterrorism, governance, economic development, and regional objectives to achieve lasting stability in the region.
Related Links and Events
April 2, 2009: "A New Course for Stabilizing Afghanistan/Pakistan" (New York)
April 23, 2009: "Future Prospects in Afghanistan and the Region" (Washington D.C.)