Last week President Obama laid out his plan for dealing with the enemies fighting us in Afghanistan. And in general, I think it is a good plan. The major components are explained in the White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group's Report on U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. The major points are as follows
- Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.
- Promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.
- Developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.
- Assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan and a vibrant economy that provides opportunity for the people of Pakistan.
- Involving the international community to actively assist in addressing these objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an important leadership role for the UN.
- Executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
- Engaging the Afghan government and bolstering its legitimacy
- Engage NATO Allies
- Enabling Pakistan
Surging both military and civilian resources and closely coupling their activities is the right direction in which to move. So too is the attempt to peel off little "t" Taliban from capital "T" Taliban, though this has been an on-going effort for some time now. But its success in Iraq is proven.
Other parts are good as well, but problematic.
Convincing Europe to risk more blood and treasure, while desirable has not been met with much success in the past and is not likely to fare any better under Obama. We should keep trying but figure that, as always, we'll have to do the heavy lifting.
And Pakistan will be a tough nut to crack as well. We've been giving them cash now for almost a decade and they are still only lackluster allies. Additionally, the Pakistan card has to be played with a deft hand because 1) they are politically unstable, 2) that instability includes Islamists of the al Qaeda persuasion, and 3) they have nuclear missiles. Push too hard, and we could wake up some morning to a nuclear armed al Qaida. Don't push hard enough and al Qaeda continues to operate in the remote areas of the country.
In general, however, I think the plan is reasonable with a reasonable chance of success.
But I'm thinking two things: It's going to get bloodier before it gets better and we're going to need a bunch more troops.
President Obama is going to have some rough going maintaining support at home, but how he handles that will tell us what we need to know about the kind of leader he really is.