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Groundhog Day for Afghan Policy

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
December 13, 2010
The Daily Beast


The Obama administration just finished its review of the situation in Afghanistan. But the president's team didn't look hard at U.S. interests in Afghanistan. Nor did they measure all of this against U.S. interests and needs at home.

So, President Obama decided that U.S. forces would continue to bear the brunt of the fighting for four more years and gradually turn over the battles to Afghan forces. In effect, he reaffirmed last month's NATO communiqué wherein this approach was labeled a “transition” policy. Perhaps this was the most he could get from General David Petraeus, the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, whose views are much more hawkish than the president's.

Nonetheless, America's vital interests in Afghanistan were, once again, taken for granted. U.S. forces have to stay and do most of the fighting until the Taliban and al Qaeda are sufficiently weakened for Afghan troops to take over. But why? Why? Ten years ago, after the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan was the center of the terrorist threat. Now, it's one of many homes to terrorists, as was seen by the homegrown terrorist attack in Sweden this week. And the argument that success in Afghanistan is necessary to ward off catastrophe in Pakistan is even more specious. Pakistan will resist or fall to extremists because of what happens in Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people, not because of what happens in Afghanistan.

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