Post-American Afghanistan and the Bush Doctrine

Hard to argue with Harlan Ullman's analysis of why we're losing in Afghanistan. It's a nice succinct summary of a lot of the arguments that many critics of the war, most notably Michael Cohen, have been making. And Rory Stewart is worth reading, too, just to remember the conceptual blinders we've collectively got on.

I happen to remain relatively optimistic about the political feasability of redefining victory and drawing down the Afghanistan war at or near the July 2011 target date. But I think the subsequent transition will not be toward a full withdrawal, but more toward the kind of light footprint alternative that Stewart and other critics of the COIN/nation-building strategy in Afghanistan advocate.

But given the Afghan-Pakistani maneuvers currently taking place, whoever's doing the planning on that light footprint alternative ought to get a head start on defining just which aspects of the Bush Doctrine are still applicable. Because it's very possible that the result of nine years of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan will be Afghan and Pakistani governments that turn a blind eye to al-Qaida's presence in both countries. At that point we'll be looking at an Afghan-Pakistani political accomodation that does not meet our national security conditions for either staying or leaving.

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