Defining Goals in Afghanistan

Michael Cohen says we don’t need metrics in Afghanistan, we need realistic goals:

The problem I generally have with these conversations about metrics is that you can’t judge success if you don’t know what the goal is – and frankly I don’t know what the Obama Administration’s goal is in Afghanistan. I’ve been told by the President that it is to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda. Great. I’m all for that. But how you achieve that goal matters a great deal. For example, counter-insurgency advocates would argue that the way to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for Al Qaeda is to prevent a Taliban take-over of the country. And the best way to achieve that goal is to conduct population centric counter-insurgency that strengthens the legitimacy of the Afghan government and convinces Taliban members to effectively switch sides.

Well I don’t agree and I’m not alone.

Frankly, I think this can get into hair-splitting territory. The good thing about metrics is that they basically provide an ostensive definition of your goals. The setter of the metrics is saying “these are the things I want to achieve, this is what you should hold me accountable to.” But I agree with the spirit of Cohen’s point, I’m worried that we’re defining our objectives in an unduly grandiose manner. Here’s Metric’s “Combat Baby”:

I don’t think we have to “leave” Afghanistan right now, but if it were up to me I’d be assuming that we’ll be leaving relatively soon and trying to come up with the most constructive possible role to play in the short-term. Eight years after the initial invasion seems like a very ill-chosen moment to be getting ready to settle in for a new long-term commitment.