U.S. Still in Afghanistan in 2014? Obama Say it Ain't So!

Next month the Obama administration will review the US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan outlined by President Obama last December.

Today's report from McClatchy supposes that the president and his administration will begin distancing the administration from the exit strategy he advanced last fall. If the administration decides to continue the current strategy through 2014, it would directly contradict President Obama's own directive, which states that there should be an "accelerated transition to Afghan authorities beginning in July 2011" ("President Obama's Final Orders for Afghanistan Pakistan Strategy, Or Terms Sheet", Obama's Wars, Woodward 2010). This rumored report would be contrary to the administration's repeated pronouncements that no changes will be made to regional strategy in the near term. The president, at the end of September, even wrote to Congressional leaders in order to reinforce his December 2009 position.

In addition, this month the Department of Defense is scheduled to release its bi-annual Report "Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan." I expect this report will show negative trends across key areas in a manner consistent with the results of the last several years regarding our efforts in Afghanistan. Moreover, I anticipate that the administration will dismiss such trends, arguing that our surge forces have only just arrived, the right form of leadership has only been in place for a few months, and the current strategy has not had enough time to take effect. I also believe the administration to burnish these arguments and others in order to extend continue our militarized effort in Afghanistan. In making these claims, however, the administration will be ignoring the recent poll from the Asia Foundation that claims "Eighty three percent of respondents support the government's attempts to address the security situation through negotiation and reconciliation with armed anti-government elements", as well as other like-minded analysis.

It is imperative that we challenge the administration about their rationales for continuing the current strategy; they must not be allowed to receive a pass on this review. In addition to the current survey data, our challenge is based on several factors including the administration's policies lack of demonstrable effect on al-Qaeda, the $119 billion the US will spend in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and the nearly 450 American service members killed since the president's address at West Point last year. Given these arguments, it is my contention that, the administration must perform a responsible and thorough review of America's war strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Despite the conflicting rumors and reports, it is important to focus on General Petraeus' December review, and, consistent with these goals, the Afghanistan Study Group will, over the next couple of months, increase its media and outreach efforts to increase and broaden the debate concerning our Afghanistan policy. These media efforts will push for an alternative strategy which will provide real results and benefits: not only for the US, but also for the nations of that region. In addition to these group efforts we are also relying on individual ones: please assist by calling your members of Congress, writing op-eds, blogs and talking with your neighbors. Because, as I wrote last week, if the administration and Congress do not feel sufficient political pressure there will be no incentive to change a failing, counterproductive and ineffectual policy.