"TOPIC A: Obama's Afghanistan Strategy"
Op-Ed, Washington Post
March 29, 2009
Author: Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
President Obama just unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan. The Post asked politicians and experts to weigh in.
President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan deserves high marks on several fronts: The president made a compelling case connecting these countries with U.S. interests; he committed substantially more military and civilian resources to the effort; and he placed equal weight on Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the latter being the true epicenter of this conflict. It is reasonable to wonder whether the new strategy is informed by the most important lesson from Iraq: Nothing is more important than winning the support of the population by providing security. Obama announced a "shift [in] the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of the Afghan security forces." Building the Afghan army and police is vital, but it is a medium- to long-term project. More important, this new stated mission is exactly the mission the Iraq surge strategy shifted away from to embrace the more urgent task of providing population security to Iraqis cowed by insurgents and terrorists. This successful effort in Iraq was the cornerstone of subsequent positive developments.
While many of Iraq's lessons do not fit Afghanistan, the centrality of population security is one worth remembering as the president recommits America to solving the challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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