Most foreign policy analysts applaud Obama's new strategy — an acceptance that defeating Taliban militants and their al-Qaida allies is only possible if those groups are rejected by the broader populations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
To that end, Obama's national security team wants to focus not only on military operations but on broader nation building to make life better for the beleaguered people in both nations.
Can Obama, Karzai and Zardari keep a lid on spiraling violence, sustain sufficient peace for his new policy to work?
The Taliban has significantly stepped up attacks on both sides of the forbidding, mountainous border that separates the South Asian neighbors.
Acknowledging that "the road ahead will be difficult," Obama said he has made a "lasting commitment" to not only defeat extremism in both countries but to salvage their shaky democracies.
"No matter what happens we will not be deterred," Obama said Wednesday with Zardari and Karzai standing at his side in the White House.
Earlier, as the summit began, Clinton called the gathering a "breakthrough meeting," telling reporters the sessions covered trade, water sharing, military training and anti-corruption drives among other issues.
"We are facing a common enemy, and we have, therefore, made common cause together," Clinton said at a ceremonial opening, also flanked by Karzai and Zardari in her department's ornate Benjamin Franklin Room. Yahoo News
On the Newshour today Andrew Bacevich and John "Eating Soup With a Knife" Nagl debated what ought to be done about the supposed AfPak theater if war.
Nagl, representing, I suppose, the nation builders and COINists argued for a long and far reaching effort to make something new and wonderful out of the Afghanistan/Pakistan moiety. His argument was a fair exposition of the desirability of a long term American program of "reform" for these two states.
Bacevich argued that the task of re-formulating these countries is beyond the means and strength of the United States. He said that we Americans need to accept the fact that we are not the saviors of humanity, and by implication I suppose he told us that we are deluded in the matter of our role as the model for the destiny of mankind.
I listened to a group of the COIN enthusiasts at an academic meeting last week. It was very public and on the record. This fortyish group of soldier-scholars are famous for their enterprise in writing books that analysed counterinsurgency campaigns of the 20th Century, campaigns that they were all too young to have experienced. Based on years of library research, they discovered the COIN doctrine of that time. It truly had "gone missing" for several decades following the defeat of the United States in Vietnam and did need re-discovery. They now treat that doctrine as though it is holy writ. When urged to acknowledge that the future is unknowable and that enemies and wars may come in many forms in different places, they often say they accept that notion but there is something unconvincing about their statements. As the cliche says, "for a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." It is a bad thing to become overly-invested in a theory. I have said this a several times now in these pages and elsewhere. One of my correspondents, a man of thirty or so, wrote to tell me recently that my lack of focus on the supremacy of COIN methods is a demonstration of advancing age. Maybe so, but I was a practitioner of COIN in a number of places in the wars that the COINists have studied. There is a limit to its utility. It is expensive. It takes a long time and it is corrosive of popular will to continue.
Could the United States re-formulate Afghanistan and Pakistan into something other than what they are and thereby "drain the swamp" of violent jihadism? Certainly. This kind of thing has been dome before, always more or less imperfectly. The neocons argued explicitly and implicitly before March, 2003 that this is exactly what we were going to do in Iraq and that once we accomplished that task the forces of repressed cultural globalization would sweep the Greater Middle East bringing on an earthly paradise somewhat akin to present day Europe. That did not work very well. The local "backward" culture proved to be a stubborn thing willing to defend its familiar "backward" ways. Iraq is a better place now than it was in 2005 but how much different is it, really?
Now we are told that it is American policy to act as a sort of cosmic neighborhood organizer for the "uplift" of these Afghan and Pakistani folks wandering in the wilderness of their own peculiar "backwardnesses."
Bacevich is right. It is beyond our capacity to do that at any price that we can or should want to pay. I would have thought that would be intuitively obvious. pl