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Under the Influence: Going it Alone in Afghanistan

Monday, March 30, 2009

After seven years in Afghanistan, it's back to basics. On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled the results of his comprehensive and long-awaited policy review of the U.S. war strategy in South and Central Asia. Reining in what has become a discombobulated mission, he asked outright, "What is our purpose in Afghanistan?" He then went on to answer his own question: Our purpose is the pursuit of al-Qaida and its leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. There is little surprise in that decision.

Likewise, the new way forward offered few unexpected headlines. The strategy will focus on an approach to Pakistan as much as Afghanistan. There will be more U.S. troops -- another 4,000 in addition to the 17,000 already on their way, bringing the total number of boots on the ground to 60,000. The president announced the mobilization of a new wave of civilian expertise to support reconstruction efforts: agricultural specialists, lawyers and engineers. In fact, there is evidence that much of this strategy has been known for quite a while, having emerged out of a newfound consensus in policy circles over the last year. ...

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