The Century Foundation recently released a report from an international task force sent to Afghanistan, in the hopes that it might help to identify possible ways in which to end the war in Afghanistan.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan, now in its tenth year, began as a response to al Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For much of the past decade, the conflict was overshadowed by the much larger and more lethal struggle in Iraq. With the winding down of the large American commitment in Iraq, however, Afghanistan is again center stage; in the words of Barack Obama, the fighting there "has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism." While other NATO members are engaged, the United States deploys a force of nearly a hundred thousand troops, three times the total of all its partners in a broad, international coalition.
Over time, the discussion of war aims in Afghanistan has shifted from crushing al Qaeda to establishing a successful state capable of defending itself, and committed to denying a reassertion of control by the Taliban forces. The task of achieving these goals has proven difficult and discouraging. In this context, America and its allies have sought fresh ideas and new approaches to defuse the conflict and reduce the military presence in Afghanistan. The odds may be long that approaches outside official channels will bear fruit, but, on the other hand, the stakes are high and the need acute.