I have been holding my breath to to see what the White House and CENTCOM strategy reviews would produce with regard to Afghanistan in particular. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I was consulted in a very small way on one of these. It was agreed at the time that I would not mention this until policy was announced.
There have been two basic possibilities for US policy in Afghanistan:
– One choice might have been to commit to a full blown, multi-decade nation building COIN war that would have "sucked up" trillions of dollars in money that we could ill afford to leave littering the heights of Central Asia. All the "old Afghanistan hands" whom I know insist that the country known as Afghanistan does have a seat in the UN and an embassy in Washington but that those two "data points" mark the closest approach to "nationhood" in the political science sense of the word that can be detected. The creation of "Afghanistan, the Country" would have been dear to neocon hearts (and the idea still is). That goal would have involved de-racination of Afghanistan to such a degree that it would become a very Westernized country. The costs would be enormous. The assumption in this (peddled by the neocons) is that a drained swamp does not breed alligators. The "swamp" in this case is the matrix of traditional lifeways. Those lifeways are despised and feared by the neocons. Why? Work it out.
– The other possibility in policy was that the US would spend a reasonable, but not excessive amount of money helping the Afghans in the development of physical and governmental infrastructure, would assist in enlarging Afghan security forces and improving their training in an effort scheduled to end in 2011 and most importantly would concentrate on energized and mobilizing native Afghan and Pakistani forces against their enemies and ours, the takfiri jihadis centered on the Al-Qa'ida group. The idea being to disrupt and disorganize our real enemies enough to keep them off balance and unable to plan significant attacks against the West and most importantly the United States. This intelligence and special operations task is small scale compared to neocon dreams and it is likely to be with us for a long time.
This latter option appears to be the one selected and if that is true, I support it. This is a rational plan, proportionate to the problem rather than some silly idea centered on the "end of civilization." pl
BTW. The cognoscenti point out to me a serious US problem in Pakistan/Afghanistan. That is a badly divided command structure. Something should be done about that.