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Media Conference Call: CFR Scholars Return from AfPak Region (Audio)

Speakers: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Robert McMahon, Editor,, Council on Foreign Relations
October 30, 2009

*Editor's note: You may also read the full transcript of this conference call here.

CFR Senior Fellows Max Boot and Daniel Markey, following their recent visit to the Afghan war theater, expressed deep concern about the ability of the Obama administration to stabilize the region with the current level of military and civilian resources.

As the Obama administration is considering whether or not to send more U.S. forces to Afghanistan, Boot, a national security expert, says the United States cannot win the war in Afghanistan without more troops on the ground. Boot, who traveled to Logar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan, says: "We have enough troops to generate casualties on both sides but not enough to win." Markey, an expert on South Asia, whose trip involved travels to southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, also argues for more U.S. resources in Afghanistan, including more troops.

On the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, both experts say there is some confusion whether the administration wants to pursue a narrow counterterrorism strategy or a more ambitious counterinsurgency strategy. Boot and Markey both argue for a counterinsurgency strategy.

Markey says the Obama administration also faces enormous challenges on the political front in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. On the Pakistani side, he points to a growing level of public anger against the United States. In Afghanistan, which will hold a presidential runoff election on November 7, Markey says he found little evidence to give him confidence that this round of election would fare any better than the last one in August, which was marred by abuses. "We will come out of this process no matter what, with a somewhat, perhaps deeply tarnished Afghan government at the center."

Markey recommends holding a constitutional convention, a loya jirga, that would bring together elected and traditional leaders from all over Afghanistan. He says this could help produce constitutional reform, reduce the powers of the presidency, and promote greater distribution of responsibility and accountability among the country's leaders.

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