National Journal is hosting an informative online forum this week on the Obama Administration’s strategy in Afghanistan. Heritage’s James Carafano identified the main points of a good strategy:

  • Have the Pakistanis deal with the terrorist threat in their tribal areas, while Coalition forces defeat them in Afghanistan.
  • Work to lessen tensions between Pakistan and India, so that Pakistan focuses on the internal threat.
  • Help the Pakistanis develop the capacity to conduct effective, full spectrum counter-insurgency campaign.
  • Continue to rely on unilateral military action in the tribal areas to protect troops fighting across the border in Afghanistan as well as to prevent a potential future catastrophic international terrorist attack, but calibrate military action (recognizing that each unilateral strike—especially involving civilian casualties—undermines U.S. broader goals).
  • Develop the capacity of Afghans to become self-reliant in security, governance and development.
  • Integrate coalition efforts (e.g. CENTCOM, NATO), programs (e.g. development assistance, military operations) and regional strategies (e.g. for Pakistan, Afghanistan, India) into a coherent effort.
  • In the end, al Qaeda’s network and leadership in the region need to be destroyed and there needs to be a security-political settlement that deals with the long term future of the tribes that stride Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Dov S. Zakheim, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer (2001-2004), Booz-Allen Hamilton adds:

Troops are not enough. We must recognize that Afghanistan is very different from Iraq. It is not just a matter of topography, or even that the society is nowhere nearly as modern as that of Saddam’s Iraq. It is also that we fought the Afghan War primarily in a support role. We did not send in thousands of troops; the war was fought by the Northern Alliance and some Pashtu allies. We have slowly evolved into occupiers–too much American (and Western) military presence, too little targeted economic assistance. So now we are back to having win hearts and minds–but it is harder because we had won them once and then lost them in 2005-2008.

And from the left, Boston University International Relations and History Professor Andrew Bacevich writes:

With the Bush administration now thankfully departed from office and its expectations of engineering a democratic transformation of the Islamic world discredited, what exactly is US strategy for the so-called Long War? Does some larger sense of purpose inform US policy? Or are decisions simply made as a response to events, e.g., when conditions deteriorate somewhere we send more troops in hopes of stabilizing things? Unless we can identify an overarching strategic purpose, it becomes exceedingly difficult to gauge how much we should be willing to spend in order to “win” in one particular and exceedingly distant theater of that war.