One important question that’s been kicking around in Washington is how will the administration define its goals in Afghanistan. Now fresh in my inbox from the State Department is the answer:
Achieving our core goal is vital to U.S. national security. It requires, first of all, realistic and achievable objectives. These include:
- Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.
- Promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.
- Developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.
- Assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan and a vibrant economy that provides opportunity for the people of Pakistan.
- Involving the international community to actively assist in addressing these objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an important leadership role for the UN.
I think this falls somewhere between what those pushing for a paring-back of goals have had in mind and what the neocons pushing back against that talk have been saying. Of course, the neocon adoption of maximalist objectives in Afghanistan is a bit of an after-the-fact phenomenon since back in the winter of 2001–2002 this was the crew that pushed, successfully, for us to ignore Afghanistan in favor of a senseless war in Iraq. So for the past seven years we’ve been adrift in Afghanistan without real policy objectives of any kind.