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September 02, 2009

Give That Man A Contract
Posted by Michael Cohen

For several months now I've been arguing that what is needed in Afghanistan is policy of containment vis-a-vis the Taliban rather than a policy of elimination. Over at the FP/NAF Af/Pak channel Sean Kay makes the case far more effectively than I have.

The war in Afghanistan began justifiably in fall 2001 and troops are serving a noble cause. It was, also, a winnable war had America not invaded Iraq or had the Bush administration adopted the current strategy three years ago when the Taliban regrouped. While the Taliban have local territorial goals, al Qaeda is a global challenge. Its origins lie in Afghanistan and while global jihadists there must be defeated, there is no logic that says denying al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan eliminates their ability to operate elsewhere.

The status quo in Afghanistan is not sustainable. Metrics for success are unclear and absent prompt positive results, public support will likely erode further. The war in Afghanistan is taking an unsustainable toll in American life and resources.

If the United States and its allies are not providing the resources necessary for victory, the mission must be realigned. Plan B for Afghanistan is likely coming -- the question is how long it will take to get there, and at what cost.

I won't bother to summarize his Plan B - just demand that folks read it.


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The current plan for Afghanistan would be an increase in combat troops and trainers for the Afghan army and police, and increasing "civilian", the participation of more comprehensive diplomacy with Pakistan, and the new realism on the drugs trade. However, the task is unclear. The United States special envoy to the region, and the ambassador. Richard Holbrooke, recently said of the success: "We'll know it when we see it."

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