In late May, some 40 Pakistani journalists received a
summons to an unusual press conference held by Baitullah Mehsud, the rarely
photographed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, who is accused of orchestrating
the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, sending suicide bombers to Spain
earlier this year, and dispatching an army of fighters into Afghanistan to
attack U.S. and NATO forces in recent months. Surrounded by a posse of heavily
armed Taliban guards, Mehsud boasted that he had hundreds of trained suicide
bombers ready for martyrdom.
It was an extraordinarily brazen public performance for a
man who is supposedly in hiding. The press conference was
held in a school in South Waziristan, on Pakistan's
northwestern border with Afghanistan.
And it wasn't secret: according to two of the journalists who attended,
reporters were given 24 hours' notice of the event and were able to call in
news from the meeting on their satellite phones.
Soon after the U.S.
invasion of Afghanistan
in late 2001, Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders were on the run. Now they are
running free. Neighboring Pakistan
seems unable or unwilling to clamp down on leading militants on its territory,
and jihadist attacks in Afghanistan
have occurred with alarming frequency in the past year. More Pakistani citizens
died as a result of militant violence in 2007 than in the previous five years
combined. Similarly, in Afghanistan's
eastern provinces, attacks are up by 40 percent in the last several months, and
more American soldiers are now dying in Afghanistan
than in Iraq.
According to U.S.
intelligence reports, Al Qaeda has regrouped along the porous Afghan-Pakistan
The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan
has grabbed the attention of American politicians across the political spectrum.
Both presidential candidates have recently called for a significant increase in
the number of American troops in Afghanistan. But simply throwing
more soldiers at the problem won't help unless the next occupant of the White
House abandons our current stopgap approach with respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan
and initiates a "strategic reset" of the sort that helped the U.S. military dampen the violence in Iraq.
This strategic reset has two major components. First,
recognizing the peril that would ensue from Afghanistan's
descent once more into a failed state, the United States must overhaul its
approach to the insurgency there by building up the size of the Afghan army and
police, and embedding the best American advisers in their ranks. It must fix
the problems in the NATO mission, decouple the Taliban from the drug trade,
embark on effective reconstruction, end coalition air strikes that kill
civilians, and block the Taliban's freedom of movement throughout much of the
Controlling the Taliban is tied directly to the second component
of a strategic reset: a new approach toward Pakistan. As much as Pakistan suffers at the hands of Islamist
insurgents, the country's powerful military intelligence agency, Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI), has tolerated the Taliban, which it views as a backup force
for asserting control of Afghanistan
if the United States
suddenly decides to cut and run. Therefore, in order to defeat the Taliban and
Al Qaeda, the United States
must start dealing with Afghanistan
as one region, not as separate entities.
Model Victory or Model Disaster?
For American interventionists, Afghanistan was supposed to be the
model: a quick war and a thorough renovation of the country's infrastructure
and political system. Instead, Afghanistan
is in danger of becoming a bigger mess than Iraq. Yet it commands a comparative
fraction of the budget and attention paid to the latter. Unless that changes,
the model victory will turn into a model disaster.
We should be clear about what would constitute a realistic
victory in Afghanistan.
Even our most concerted efforts will not turn it into Belgium, but we can
prevent it from becoming a safe haven for Al Qaeda, stop the Taliban from threatening
the population, bring security to much of the countryside (particularly the key
roads), and wean farmers away from the poppy trade by expanding the legitimate
economy. The achievement of these goals would set the country back on the road
to relative peace and prosperity, where it was headed in the 1970s before the
By 2002, the
Taliban had been routed from control of Afghanistan and were little more
than a nuisance; today, they are much more than that. They are now supported by
a growing cast of foreign fighters, including Arabs, Uzbeks, Punjabi Pakistanis,
and even Europeans, according to Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of NATO
forces in Afghanistan.They have been encircling Kabul and ambushing
convoys of supplies on their way to the capital with an eye to isolating the
government. They have appeared in force in the neighboring Wardak province. In
August, the Taliban killed 10 French soldiers in Sarobi, only 30 miles from Kabul. Such operations are
beginning to convince the population that international forces are losing
control of the country.
As Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, recently observed-in a masterful piece of understatement-Afghanistan
has been an "economy of force" operation since the fall of the Taliban. You get what you pay for,
which in this instance means that while American and NATO forces have been
successful in initially clearing the Taliban out of many areas of the country, they
haven't been able to hold and rebuild many of those cleared areas, which is critical
to the success of any counterinsurgency effort. One Western diplomat in Kabul described NATO
operations in the south of the country as "mowing the lawn." Every year, NATO
forces go in and clear out Taliban sanctuaries, only to have to go back the
following year and cut back the new growth.
With the Taliban resurgent, the enthusiastic support Afghans
once showed for the U.S.
invasion is now eroding. According to an ABC News/BBC poll released in December
2006, "big majorities" still thought that the U.S.-led invasion was "a good
thing for their country (88 percent)." By last year that number had dropped to
76 percent. Popular support for U.S.
efforts declined from 57 percent to 42 percent between 2006 and 2007. However,
increasing disenchantment with the coalition forces does not equate with
approval of the Taliban, who are widely loathed in much of the country, except
in the southwest, where 23 percent of those polled say that they support the
religious militants, compared to only 8 percent in the country as a whole.
Taking the Lead
To roll back the Taliban, which must be the first step in
more troops are needed. In this, both American presidential candidates are
correct. But neither Senator McCain's nor Senator Obama's public statements reflect
the true size of the force required. Classic counterinsurgency doctrine
suggests that Afghanistan
needs something like half a million additional soldiers and policemen to secure
its population. There are only 70,000 policemen in the entire country, which is
wracked by a violent insurgency in its eastern and southern provinces, and
increasingly in its central provinces,
and is also the center of the world's heroin trade. (Compare this to New York City, which
alone has some 40,000 policemen.) And Afghanistan,
with its high mountain ranges and a landmass a third larger than Iraq's,
is a country ideally suited to guerrilla warfare. Moreover, its population is some
4 million or so greater than Iraq's,
yet there are three times more soldiers and police in Iraq than in Afghanistan. Iraqi security services
number around 550,000, and there are some 140,000 American soldiers stationed in
the country. In contrast, Afghanistan
has only 140,000 soldiers and police in total, and around 70,000 U.S.
and NATO troops.
does not need a lot more American boots on the ground. Because the U.S.
military and NATO are now stretched to the breaking point, the vast majority of
additional soldiers and policemen must be supplied by the Afghans. What the
coalition needs to do is to send in more Special Forces and civilian advisers
who specialize in the training of indigenous forces.
This raises a question that is now weighing heavily on the
minds of senior U.S.
military officials: Could the security shortfall in Afghanistan
be reversed by replicating the "Sons of Iraq" program, which helped dampen the insurgency
in Iraq by putting on the U.S. payroll 100,000 Sunni militants who
subsequently helped to decimate Al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes and no. The Sons of Iraq
signed up not only for a U.S.
paycheck but also because Al Qaeda in Iraq had turned its guns against
fellow Sunnis who did not share its ultra-fundamentalist views. However, the
Taliban have not engendered anything like the intense anger among Afghans that
the foreign-led militants of Al Qaeda did among the Sunnis of Iraq.
According to a senior Afghan official, President Hamid
Karzai is seriously considering the idea of establishing tribal militias of 50
to 300 men to establish security at the district level and provide a counterweight
to local militants. The idea is potentially a good one: ordinary Afghans tend
to trust their tribal shuras
(councils) to solve their problems, and these "Sons of Afghanistan" could fill
the security void until the Afghan army and police grew in size and ability so
as to be able to secure the country-a process likely to take many years. Such
tribal militias could be paid with U.S. funds, just as the Sons of
Iraq have been.
Such a plan would have to be carefully implemented in order
to avoid recreating the warlord-led militias that have been so successfully
disbanded since the fall of the Taliban. To avoid fostering new warlord
mini-armies, the coalition should not arm the members of these tribal militias,
who have retained their personal weapons. Nor should they negotiate the set-up
of the militias with local strongmen, but rather seek the consent of local
tribal shuras, which would oversee them.
Another promising alternative would be for the United States
to provide logistical and financial support for the Afghan government to
institute a draft for males older than 18. These draftees would serve for two
years and help to stand up an Afghan National Guard, which in turn would help
bring security and foster a sense of Afghan nationhood. When not acting as a
first line of defense against the Taliban, these units could work on
Just as important as building up the Afghan army and police
force is combating the insurgency by reducing its size. At the 2001 Bonn Conference
that set the stage for the present Afghan government, there were no mechanisms
to include the Taliban. This is no longer a viable position. Already an
effective amnesty program has disarmed hundreds of Taliban soldiers; the time
has now come to reach out quietly to more senior members of the Taliban who are
open to negotiating a lasting peace.
In all of this, the United States must take the lead.
Over the past three years, since NATO took over responsibility for military
operations in the north, west, and south of the country, violence has grown
exponentially. Although the Taliban's resurgence is not NATO's fault, it's time
to recognize that NATO's involvement in Afghanistan has been a strategic
While it is still politically and financially useful for the
overall operation to be a genuine multi-country coalition, the time has come
for the United States
to admit that military operations, particularly in the unsettled south, must be
taken over by American forces, with help from those allied Special Forces that are
up to the job. Even the most able NATO allies don't have the capability of
American forces, and other NATO allies come to the table so freighted with "national
caveats" about what they can and cannot do that they are largely useless in
battle. NATO forces should be deployed in more settled parts of the country for
the peacekeeping operations that they signed up for in the first place.
Turn on the Lights in Kabul
violence in Afghanistan
is fed by the widespread feeling among Afghans that they haven't benefited from
the billions of dollars of reconstruction aid that supposedly has been lavished
on the country. Much of that money has been consumed by the various
international organizations whose four-wheel drives clog the streets of Kabul. In March, the
Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief released findings showing that some
40 percent of aid to Afghanistan
has been funneled back to donor countries.
While the U.S. government has so far appropriated $45
billion for Iraqi reconstruction, it has dispersed only $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan, a country that has been utterly destroyed by two decades of war.
To reverse Afghan resentment, the United States should focus on
completing three high-profile projects that will have real benefits for the
Afghan people. The first is to turn on the lights in Kabul, which receives on average only a few
hours of electricity a day. The second is to secure the important Kandahar-to-Kabul road,
which was opened as a blacktop freeway with much hoopla in 2003, but which is now
a suicidal route for anyone driving it without a security detail. The third is
to finish building the Kajaki Dam in southern Afghanistan, which will provide
electricity to some 2 million Afghans, most of whom live deep in Taliban
There is also the problem of the capacity of the Afghan
government, which doesn't spend a good chunk of the money it is given. The only
way the Afghan government can increase its capacity is if it is given the
resources to attract the best and the brightest away from the NGOs operating in
the country, which pay salaries the government has no way of matching. As the United States
increases its direct aid to the Afghan government, it should combat corruption
by requiring audits by a respected international accounting firm. And it should
help fund and provide technical assistance for an Afghan governance academy
that would teach best practice management to all levels of the Afghan
Senator Obama has said that as president he will give an
additional $1 billion in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, but significantly more
than that is required to meet the country's basic needs. The new president
should solicit matching funds from the Gulf nations, which are now sitting on
one of the largest wealth transfers in history in the form of windfall oil
profits. Those countries have so far done almost nothing to help the poorest
Muslim country in the world. In the 1980s, Saudi
Arabia matched U.S.
expenditures in Afghanistan
dollar for dollar in the effort to defeat the Soviet occupiers. It should do at
least as much today to help with reconstruction, as should its neighbors. After
all, as the Gulf countries are belatedly beginning to realize, they are also
threatened by the rise of global militant jihadists.
Additional American aid should be tied in part to an Afghan
public employment program similar to the Works Progress Administration program that
President Roosevelt instituted during the Great Depression. Afghanistan has
a chronic 40 percent official unemployment rate. It also has a desperate need
for new roads and dams, and must repair the agricultural aqueducts destroyed by
years of war. Meanwhile, Kabul
and other major Afghan cities are awash in debris and trash. Cleaning up that
rubbish would have a salutary effect on the residents of those cities. Much of
the labor required to fix Afghanistan's
problems does not require great skill, and millions of Afghans could be set to
work rebuilding and cleaning up their country.
A Boneheaded Counternarcotics Strategy
Also feeding the Taliban's comeback is the boneheaded U.S. counternarcotics
strategy of poppy field eradication. The policy is an utter failure:
Afghanistan continues to produce ever larger amounts of opium and its
derivative, heroin-providing 93 percent of the world's supply-and the Taliban
insurgency is financed in good part by this trade, to the tune of $100 million a
year. Not only has the manual
eradication program carried out by Afghan police working with DynCorp
contractors failed to wipe out the Afghan drug trade, the approach has only
created more enemies for the coalition.
Two million Afghan farmers and their families survive on
poppy production, and those whose crops are destroyed are generally the poorer
ones who can't pay the bribes to have their fields left alone. It's no surprise
that those farmers are easy recruits to the Taliban cause. "The decision to
destroy poppies, says Capt. Michael Erwin, a senior intelligence officer for a
Special Forces task force in Afghanistan in 2007, "has turned thousands of
Afghans from citizens disinterested in coalition force activity to men willing
to take up arms to attack anyone they associate with eradication-coalition
troops...or the Afghan government."
of penalizing farmers who cultivate poppies because they have few other
options, the United States needs to invest in the legitimate Afghan
agricultural economy by providing subsidies, price supports, and seeds for
alternative crops, and by building the road system that will get those crops to
market. As Lt. Gen. David Barno, the U.S.
military commander in Afghanistan
from 2003 to 2005, has said, the measure of success of a successful
counternarcotics policy should not be hectares of poppy destroyed every year,
but hectares of other crops that are planted. To that end, it is imperative
that the United States send
more agricultural advisers to Afghanistan.
And the United States
and other NATO countries should open their markets to Afghan farm products and
the international community should help Kabul set up an agency, modeled on the
Canadian Wheat Board, that would purchase crops from farmers at consistent
prices, and market and distribute them internationally.
States should also endorse a pilot demonstration project to harness poppy
cultivation for the production of legal medicinal opiates such as morphine for
sale to countries like Brazil that are in short supply of cheap pain drugs. While
there are some legitimate criticisms of this idea-principally that it would be
difficult to make sure that Afghan opium was only going into the legitimate
market-one low-risk approach would be to allow the legalized opiate trade to
debut as a pilot project on a small scale in a province with reasonable
security. Farmers engaged in legalized poppy growing would enjoy financial
incentives that could be revoked, and they would face criminal penalties if
they tried to divert their product to the illicit market. Congress could amend
the law that requires U.S.
opiate manufacturers to purchase at least 80 percent of their opiates from India and Turkey
(affording them a guaranteed market) to include Afghanistan. This preferential
trade agreement, which was designed to serve U.S.
political and strategic interests, should be recalibrated to fit our
present-day strategic interests in Afghanistan, where vital national
security interests are at stake.
To end the culture of impunity that Afghan drug kingpins
currently enjoy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration should make public
the list of the country's top drug suspects, including government officials, a
practice that would likely see results in Afghanistan's shame-based culture.
It appears that the list has so far not been published because it would
embarrass certain officials in the Karzai government. Publication is long
judicial system is still too weak to handle major drug cases, Washington
and Kabul should sign an extradition treaty
allowing Afghan drug kingpins to be tried in the United States, as has happened in
the past with Colombian drug lords. And now that we are finally talking to Iran, which has perhaps the highest percentage
of heroin users in the world, one area of strong common interest should be closing
down the trafficking routes on Afghanistan's
wants to stop adding fuel to the Taliban fire, it must stop killing civilians.
Because Afghanistan is an
economy-of-force operation, U.S.
military operations rely on air strikes far more often than is the case in Iraq,
with predictable consequences. In a 2007 ABC News/BBC survey, 34 percent of
Afghans polled said that civilians had been killed or seriously injured by
coalition forces in the area where they lived. Of the some 700 civilians killed
in the first six months of 2008, around a third were killed by Afghan, American,
or NATO soldiers, according to U.N. figures. That is an improvement over the
same time period in 2007, when coalition forces killed more civilians than the
Taliban, but the numbers must continue to come down.
Looking ahead, it is vitally important that the presidential
election scheduled for the end of next year, when Hamid Karzai's five-year term
as president is up, be seen to be fair and as inclusive as possible. NATO
and the United States
will have to pay for the costs of the election-hundreds of millions of dollars
the Afghan government simply doesn't have-and focus on providing security,
particularly in the south, so that the election can go forward without
significant interference from the Taliban.
The Problem of Pakistan
efforts will fail, however, if America
doesn't recognize another threat to its Afghan policy: Pakistan, which is offering crucial safe haven
to the Taliban even as it professes its cooperation with the United States. A careful study by
the United Nations released last September found that suicide attackers in Afghanistan are mostly drawn from religious
schools across the border in Pakistan. According to Seth Jones, a
political scientist at RAND who has studied some
90 insurgencies that have taken place since 1945, "Insurgents have been
successful approximately forty-three percent of the time when they enjoyed a
How the Pakistan
sanctuary fuels the violence in Afghanistan
can be seen in the case of Rahmad Khan, a cow herder in Pakistan's tribal area, who I met in a Kabul jail in July. Khan
told me he was about 30, that he couldn't read or write, and that he had been recruited
three months earlier to be a "martyr" in Afghanistan in the jihad against
the foreign occupiers. He said that he made about eight dollars a month herding
cows-not enough to get married-and agreed to carry out a suicide mission
because "in Paradise, I would find houris (virgins)
for free." He was taken to a madrassa where militants were manufacturing
suicide vests and then over the border to Afghanistan. But the vision of the
virgins disappeared in a flash after Afghan policemen thought he seemed nervous
and arrested him.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds more Rahmad Khans standing
by. In 2007, there were more than 50 suicide attacks in Pakistan and some 140 in Afghanistan, many of them carried
out by the Taliban. The United
States must reconceptualize its Afghan
policy as a regional problem. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are embedded in a sea of
ethnic Pashtuns who live on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. In fact,
there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan
than there are in Afghanistan-some
40 million altogether, making them the largest ethnic grouping in the world
without a state.
The next U.S.
president should take every opportunity to make it clear that America's commitment to Afghanistan is not just until the
next election cycle, but for years to come. The American public, which understands
reversion into a failed state would be a prelude to Al Qaeda regaining a safe
haven in the country, will support this approach. As noted above, Pakistan is holding on to its radical groups as for
a means of asserting de facto control over Afghanistan
should the Americans withdraw; only a long-term U.S.
commitment will convince Pakistan's
government to end its tolerance for the militant groups headquartered on the
country's western border.
Dislike of President Bush has so colored Pakistani politics
that the government has not been able to persuade its own population that going
after the militants is in Pakistan's
best interests and not just part of some U.S.-led war against Islam. A poll
released in June by Terror Free Tomorrow, a respected Washington-based polling
organization, found that 52 percent of Pakistanis blamed the United States for the violence in
their country, and only 8 percent blamed Al Qaeda. Just as in Afghanistan, sharply curtailing the numbers of
Pakistanis killed in U.S.
air strikes on the Afghan border would help reverse those numbers.
There are some promising signs that the Pakistani
establishment is waking up to its domestic militant threat. As Yousaf Raza
Gillani, the new prime minister, said at a press conference in July, "Pakistan
is not fighting the war of any other country. The war on terror is in our own
interest." But, even if the Pakistani government turns on all of its militants, there is
no obvious quick way to remove their safe havens in the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas (FATA), which for centuries have not been fully under any
government's control and are now largely under the thumb of the Taliban.
The Pakistanis tried the hammer approach in the FATA in 2003
and 2004 with a number of military operations, but they were badly defeated.
That approach was followed by appeasement in the form of "peace" agreements-essentially
an admission of military failure-that only increased the militants' control.
The most recent approach is a mix of peace agreements, military operations, and
reconstruction, which on paper is not a bad idea, but even under the most
optimistic scenario it will take many years to pacify the region.
States has earmarked $750 million in
development funds for the FATA and $400 million to bolster the Frontier Corps,
the local paramilitary force. This is a good start, but it may be premature: the
FATA is in the grip of a violent insurgency, and even the less violent
agencies, such as Khyber, are unsafe. Reconstruction in such a context may not
A further problem is that the FATA, arguably one of the most
strategically important places on the planet, is an information black hole,
off-limits to all but locally based journalists. The Pakistani government
should be encouraged to lift its de facto ban on travel there by international
journalists-as well as the similar bans in effect regarding Baluchistan
and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
To help tamp down the insurgency in FATA and other areas of
the NWFP, America
should help the Pakistanis build up their counterinsurgency capabilities. The
Pakistani army is built for a land war with India, not for fighting terrorists
and insurgents. Pakistani officers should be encouraged to attend counterinsurgency
courses at American war colleges, and the United
States should support such courses at Pakistan's National Defense
University. None of this
would cost a lot of U.S. dollars and would yield potentially large results, as
the new U.S.
counterinsurgency strategy has done in Iraq.
Small amounts of U.S. aid in support of
deradicalization programs for jailed Pakistani militants could also yield large
returns. Such programs have had some success in Saudi
and Singapore, but have not
been tried in Pakistan.
Pakistani officials would benefit from learning about best practices in
countries that have already spent years in building up their own counter-radicalization
A Regional Grand Bargain
With respect to the larger regional picture, the United States must also put serious diplomatic
effort into settling the Kashmir dispute, which
the Indians and Pakistanis have been moving forward on for the past several
years with scant American support. Kashmir is
a core grievance for many Pakistani Muslims and a training ground for jihadist
terrorists, some of whom end up working with Al Qaeda. An equitable Kashmir settlement would curtail militancy and likely
lead those elements of the Pakistani establishment who aid Kashmiri jihadi
groups allied with Al Qaeda and the Taliban to withdraw their support.
As part of a regional grand bargain aimed at satisfying Pakistan, the United
States should encourage Afghanistan
to formally recognize the Durand Line of 1893 that demarcated Afghanistan's border with the British Raj and is
the de facto border with Pakistan
today. Afghanistan does not
recognize the Durand Line and so technically claims territory deep inside Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province.
For Afghan leaders to continually complain about Pakistani incursions over a
border they don't even acknowledge makes no sense.
Finally, a regional grand bargain could be accomplished in
part by the new U.S.
president convening a meeting of key concerned states, as happened at the Bonn Conference
in late 2001, and which set the course for the Afghan political compact that
held up reasonably well until the past year or so. The key players include Iran, Russia,
India, China, Pakistan,
and NATO countries such as the United States,
the United Kingdom, and Canada,
all of which have an interest in preventing the continued rise of Al Qaeda and
the Taliban. Such a conference would have the side benefit that Pakistan would finally get the message that the
continued existence of safe haven for militants on its western border is
intolerable to the international community, including key allies such as China and the U.K.
Going After Al Qaeda
Turning to the fight against Al
Qaeda itself, seven years after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government still does not maintain a
comprehensive database of the insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such a database, which would
map the "facilitative nodes" that bring young men into the jihad, such as Web sites,
operational planners, financiers, and jihadist underground networks, is
urgently needed. One of the building blocks of such a database should be
the identification of suicide attackers in Afghanistan
which could be accomplished using DNA samples, accounts on jihadist Web sites,
good intelligence work, and media reports.
The mapping of the social networks of terrorists should also
include identification of the clerical mentors of suicide bombers, as it seems
likely that only a relatively small number have persuaded their followers of
the religious necessity of martyrdom. Armed with such intelligence, the United States and NATO could ask Pakistan,
where most of the suicide attackers originate, to rein in especially egregious
The United States, together with the
Pakistani and Afghan governments, should also target the production and
distribution networks of As-Sahab, Al Qaeda's video/audio production arm, as
well as the Taliban's analogous Ummat propaganda division. Given the close
connections between these networks and Al Qaeda and the Taliban, such an effort
would also provide important clues to the whereabouts of terrorist leaders.
It goes without saying that capturing or killing Osama bin
Laden would be a psychological victory for the civilized world and a
psychological defeat for Al Qaeda and its affiliates. As-Sahab represents
perhaps the best way to locate the Al Qaeda leader because he continues to
release tapes through the organization and will likely feel compelled to
release a videotape as the U.S.
presidential election approaches, just as he did just before the 2004
presidential election. Of course, capturing or killing bin Laden will not end
the militant jihadist movement on the Afghan-Pakistan border. But it would be a
really good start.
The Cost of Neglect
As the new president assumes office in January, some will no
doubt advise him that increased American engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan of the sort outlined above
will be too costly and dangerous. His best response will be that on September
11, 2001, we learned that we neglect Afghanistan
at our peril.
is a Senior Fellow and the co-director of the Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency
Initiative at the New America Foundation. This paper -- the first publication from this new initiative -- is an expanded version of an
article that first appeared in The New Republic.Thanks to
Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation
for her help on this paper.
There have been conflicting reports about Baitullah Mehsud's possible death. As
of early October 2008 he appears to be alive.
"[As of May 22, 2008], nearly $45 billion has been appropriated for Iraq
According to an August 2008 report by the Center for American Progress, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/08/left_behind.html.
According to General David McKiernan at a press conference in Washington DC
on October 1 2008