Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Afghanistan’s ground realities

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There’s been much talk about the need for a new U.S. strategic approach to Afghanistan, that would combine a regional diplomatic initiative covering Iran, Russia, China, India and Pakistan with plans to send in thousands more troops.

The most recent in this vein came in an article in the Washington Post this week. It says President-elect Barack Obama intends to sign off on Pentagon plans to send up to 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but the incoming administration does not anticipate that the Iraq-like “surge” of forces will significantly change the direction of the conflict. 

“Instead, Obama’s national security team expects that the new deployments, which will nearly double the current U.S. force of 32,000 (alongside an equal number of non-U.S. NATO troops), will help buy enough time for the new administration to reappraise the entire Afghanistan war effort and develop a comprehensive new strategy for what Obama has called the ‘central front on terror’,” it says. “We have no strategic plan. We never had one,” it quoted a  senior U.S. military commander as saying of the Bush years.

But laying aside strategy for now, what about the ground realities of sending more troops into Afghanistan? (The Washington Post says “the military is as concerned about the mission of additional troops as it is about the size of the force and is looking for Obama to resolve critical internal debates, including the relative merits of conducting conventional combat vs targeted guerrilla war.”)

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