Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a research associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
This morning, President Obama laid out his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition to the 17,000 troops already announced, Obama will deploy a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to train and advise Afghan security forces – making the total increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan roughly 21,000. These forces will be needed to improve the security situation, especially in southern and eastern Afghanistan, as weather improves and the fighting season begins.
But an increase in troops doesn’t equal an overall shift in strategy. President Obama’s speech focused less on the military aspects of the United States’ effort in Afghanistan and more on a comprehensive civil-political effort to improve basic services, accountability, and overall governance in order to defeat the hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda fighters at the heart of the insurgency. This emphasis on the civil and political sectors is a welcome development, and comes on top of previous news that there will be a substantial civilian “surge” in Afghanistan. Moreover, by my interpretation of Obama’s speech, training of Afghan security forces will be better integrated into the overall state-building effort rather than being simply treated as a cure-all for both governance and military problems of the insurgency.
At the same time, Obama’s new strategy suggests that the administration is attempting to give Karzai or his successor a decent shot at improving Afghanistan’s governance and political problems without sucking the United States into an endless military commitment. The emphasis on the civil-political and governance issues suggest that the new team recognizes that it is on those issues that the United States and its allies will succeed or fail in Afghanistan, as I argued earlier. Read more