Task Force Reports

Independent Task Force reports offer comprehensive policy prescriptions for major foreign policy issues facing the U.S. government, developed through the deliberations of independent and nonpartisan Task Forces sponsored by CFR.

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Iran: Time for a New Approach

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have positioned American troops along Iran’s borders, making the United States and Iran wary competitors and neighbors who nonetheless possess overlapping interests. Meanwhile, questions continue to be raised about Iran’s nuclear program and its involvement with terrorism. Clearly, contending with Iran will constitute one of the most complex and pressing challenges facing future U.S. administrations. This informative report, which sparked sharp debate in Washington and extensive coverage by U.S. and international media, offers a timely new approach.

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Update on the Global Campaign Against Terrorist Financing

While “al-Qaeda’s current and prospective ability to raise and move funds with impunity has been significantly diminished...al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations still have ready access to financial resources, and that fact constitutes an ongoing threat to the United States.” So warns this independent Task Force report, a follow-on to the Council’s 2002 report that concludes individuals and organizations based in Saudi Arabia were the most important source of Qaeda funding.

See more in Global; Terrorist Financing

Renewing the Atlantic Partnership

In the year that has passed since the war in Iraq, the United States and its European allies have done much to repair their relations. Nonetheless, the end of the Cold War, Europe's continuing integration, and the new array of threats confronting the West continue to test the strength of the Atlantic partnership. To revitalize the Atlantic alliance, Europe and America must forge new "rules of the road" governing the use of force, adapt the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to meet today's threats coming from outside Europe, and launch a major initiative to bring about political and economic reform in the greater Middle East. These are the conclusions of an independent Task Force chaired by former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers.

See more in EU; United States; NATO; Politics and Strategy

Iraq: One Year After

Written a year after U.S. and coalition forces went to war with Iraq, a time when American officials faced questions about U.S. staying power, this timely report strongly urges President Bush and senior members of Congress to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Iraq.

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Nonlethal Weapons and Capabilities

Integrating nonlethal weapons (NLW) more widely into the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could have reduced damage, saved lives, and helped limit the widespread looting and sabotage that occurred after the cessation of major conflict in Iraq. So argues this report of a Council-sponsored independent Task Force led by Dr. Graham T. Allison, director of the Belfer Center for science and international affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, General Paul X. Kelley, USMC (ret.), former commandant of the Marine Corps, and former military officers, business executives, academics, diplomats, and congressional staff. Incorporating NLW capabilities into the equipment, training, and doctrine of the armed services could substantially improve U.S. effectiveness in conflict, postconflict, and homeland defense. The Task Force report concludes that equipping U.S.-trained and -supported local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq with NLW would help reinforce authority and be more acceptable to local populations than conventionally armed troops.

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New Priorities in South Asia

South Asia may be halfway around the globe from the United States, but what happens there—as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda tragically underscored—can affect all Americans. After the terrorist attacks and the massing of one million troops on the borders of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan in 2001, the critical importance of South Asia to global and U.S. national security is clear. Securing a moderate Muslim state in Pakistan, consolidating and deepening increasingly important U.S.-India ties, actively encouraging peaceful relations between India and Pakistan, and ensuring an Afghanistan in which terrorists can never again find shelter must be foreign policy priorities for the United States.

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Emergency Responders

Written nearly two years after September 11, 2001, this report concludes that the United States is drastically underfunding local emergency responders and remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil, particularly one involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-impact conventional weapons. If the nation does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could be even more devastating than 9/11.

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Iraq: The Day After

With mounting costs to American lives and treasure in Iraq, and success there so clearly tied to American staying power and the coherence of U.S. strategy, the Bush administration must sharpen and deepen its commitment to making Iraq a better and safer place. As a first step, the authors argue that the president should set the direction for his administration by making a major foreign policy address to the nation, explaining the importance of seeing the task through, as well as the costs and risks of U.S. engagement in postwar Iraq.

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Burma: Time For Change

Burma is one of the most tightly controlled dictatorships in the world. For more than four decades, Burma’s 50 million people have been oppressed by military rulers who have systematically impoverished the country’s natural and human resources.  The country is home to a genuine democracy movement, but it is brutally suppressed by the military government. Recognizing that democracy and the National League for Democracy (led by Aung San Suu Kyi) cannot survive in Burma without the help of the United States and the international community, this report sounds a clarion call for change.

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Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace?

The United States successfully toppled the Taliban in the Afghan war, but it is in danger of losing the peace following the conclusion of that war. Without greater international support for the transitional government of President Hamid Karzai, security in Afghanistan will deteriorate further, prospects for economic reconstruction will dim, and Afghanistan will revert to warlord-dominated anarchy. This failure could gravely erode America’s credibility around the globe and mark a major defeat in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, warns this informative chairmen’s report.

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Meeting the North Korean Nuclear Challenge

The North Korean nuclear program is headed in a dangerous direction. Yet the United States and its allies have not set forth a coherent or unified strategy to stop it. This Task Force report evaluates the challenges facing the United States in and around the Korean Peninsula and assesses American options for meeting them.

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Chinese Military Power

The rise of China has long been a growing concern among U.S. foreign policymakers. Of particular concern is the strength of Chinese military power and its relation to U.S. military capability. This important report assesses the situation and concludes that China is at least two decades behind the United States in terms of military technology and capability. If the United States continues to dedicate significant resources to improving its own military forces, as expected, the balance between the United States and China, both globally and in Asia, is likely to remain decisively in America’s favor beyond the next twenty years.

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Iraq: The Day After

Written before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, this report accurately predicted that winning the peace in Iraq would be a far greater challenge than winning the war. The report says that this challenge falls largely on President Bush, who must make clear to the world that the United States is prepared to stay the course for the multibillion-dollar, multiyear commitment of U.S. troops, civilian personnel, and other resources that will be needed to achieve a lasting peace.

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Threats to Democracy

Democratic governments, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations have responded poorly and often at cross purposes when democracies are threatened by coups or erosions of the democratic process, concludes an independent Task Force led by two of the world’s leading pro-democracy advocates, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former Foreign Minister of Poland Bronislaw Geremek. Yet support for democracy is consistent not only with the ideals of the world’s democracies but also with their interests and security. Democratic states are “less likely to breed terrorists or to be state sponsors of terrorism,” the report concludes, and more likely to be “active participants in the global economy.”

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America—Still Unprepared, Still in Danger

America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Yet, only a year after 9/11, there are signs that Americans are already lapsing back into complacency. This comprehensive report seeks to make the nation aware of the dangers it still faces by highlighting the nation’s vulnerabilities and outlining a number of homeland security priorities that should be pursued with urgency and national purpose.

See more in Terrorism; Preparedness; Homeland Security; United States

Terrorist Financing

After an initially robust attempt to curtail financing for international terrorism, the Bush administration’s current efforts are strategically inadequate to assure the sustained results needed to protect U.S. security. This is the core finding of a bipartisan commission chaired by Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of AIG, and directed by two former National Security Council officials who are experts in the field, William F. Wechsler and Lee S. Wolosky.

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Terrorist Financing

Enhancing U.S. Leadership at the United Nations

U.S. influence at the United Nations is low but can be improved, concludes this report of a bipartisan Task Force led by two highly regarded foreign policy experts, Republican Representative David Dreier and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton. It calls for a new strategy—building a democratic coalition of UN members—to better advance American interests and values with three key goals in mind: supporting democracy and democratic principles throughout the world; advancing human rights; and fighting terrorism.

See more in International Organizations and Alliances

Improving the U.S. Public Diplomacy Campaign In the War Against Terrorism

America’s ongoing struggle against the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, attacks has many critical elements. The military campaign in Afghanistan is one; however, another campaign of potentially decisive significance is winning the battle for public support among Muslims around the world. Indeed, if the United States is unable to win the battle for hearts and minds, it may prove impossible to carry its military operations through to completion. America must create an understanding in the Muslim world of its cause and its actions that will give their leaders more flexibility to support the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks.

See more in United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft; Terrorism

Building Support for More Open Trade

With the current slowdown in the world economy, the expansion of free trade is critically important to economic growth in the United States and abroad—and the United States must move forward on expanding trade now. That is the conclusion of this independent Task Force, which specifically recommends that Congress give Trade Promotion Authority, formerly known as “fast-track,” to the president.

See more in Trade