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Direckshun
03-27-2009, 10:19 AM
Again, it's exactly what he said he'd do.

How can we believe a word he says, pat?

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/03/27/us/27obama-600.jpg

Obama Unveils Afghan Plan to Add Troops and Set Goals
President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in Washington on Friday.
By PETER BAKER and THOM SHANKER
Published: March 27, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama said on Friday that he plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan, increase aid to Pakistan, and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban in both chaotic countries.

In strikingly ominous tones, Mr. Obama warned — just as President George W. Bush did repeatedly over the years — of intelligence estimates that al Qaeda “is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.”

“The situation is increasingly perilous,” he told government officials, top military officers and diplomats in remarks at the White House.

He added, “We have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

But President Obama promised neither to write a “blank check” nor to “blindly stay the course” if his risky new strategy does not achieve its ambitious goals.

In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating an approach used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod shaky governments in the region to take more responsibility for fighting insurgents and building lasting political institutions. The new strategy, officials said, will send 4,000 more troops to train Afghan security forces on top of the 17,000 extra combat troops that he already ordered to Afghanistan shortly after taking office.

For now, Mr. Obama has decided not to send additional combat forces, they said, although military commanders at one point had requested a total of 30,000 more American troops. Even so, the strategy he endorsed on Friday effectively gives Mr. Obama full ownership of the war just as its violence is spilling back and forth across the border with Pakistan.

He called on Congress to approve legislation authorizing $1.5 billion in aid to Pakistan every year over the next five years for strengthening its democratic institutions and for basic infrastructure improvements like building roads and schools.

Prominent Democrats in the Senate expressed support to the president’s approach.

“We’ve said for some time that we must refocus our resources on threats like Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a statement. “I strongly support the president’s decision to do just that.”

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement calling the president’s approach “realistic and bold in a critical region where our policy needs rescuing.” Mr. Kerry and the committee’s ranking Republican, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, will introduce the legislation authorizing the $1.5 billion in aid to Pakistan.

Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he, too, was encouraged, particularly by Mr. Obama’s focus on Pakistan. But Mr. Feingold said he was concerned that the new strategy “may still be overly Afghan-centric when it needs to be even more regional.”

He said the bombing in Pakistan on Friday made it clear that “we need to fully address the inextricable links between the crisis in Afghanistan and the instability and terrorist threats in Pakistan.”

A Republican, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, also praised the president’s plan.

“Today, the president presented Congress and the American people with an honest assessment of our strategic position in Afghanistan and underscored that America’s core mission must be redefined,” she said.

But Ms. Snowe said increased American aid must be “carefully targeted,” that the Pakistan and Afghanistan must be pressured to do their part.

On Thursday, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, emerged from a briefing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to declare that in his judgment the administration’s review “was right on track.”

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

American officials have repeatedly said that Afghanistan has to make more progress in fighting corruption, curbing the drug trade and sharing power with the regions, while they have insisted that Pakistan do more to cut ties between parts of its government and the Taliban. Mr. Obama telephoned President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on Thursday to share the main elements of the strategic review.

Setting benchmarks for Pakistan could be particularly difficult. For years, the United States has simply paid bills submitted by the Pakistani government for counterterrorism operations, even during truces when its military was not involved in counterterrorism. Pakistan has resisted linking its aid to specific performance criteria and officials acknowledged that developing those criteria could be problematic.

The key elements of Mr. Obama’s plan, with its more robust combat force, its emphasis on training, and its far-reaching goals, foreshadow an ambitious but risky and costly attempt to unify and stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama is unveiling his approach at a time when the conflict is worsening, the lives of the people are not visibly improving, and the intervention by American-led foreign powers is increasingly resented.

He said that “an uncompromising core of the Taliban,” the fundamentalist party that America and its allies ousted seven years ago, must be defeated militarily, but that other opposition forces “who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price,” must be drawn back into the fold.

The goals that Mr. Obama has settled on may be elusive and, according to some critics, even naïve. Among other things, officials said he planned to recast the Afghan war as a regional issue involving not only Pakistan but also India, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian states.

His plan envisions persuading Pakistan to stop focusing military resources on its longstanding enemy, India, so it can concentrate more on battling insurgents in its lawless tribal regions. That goal may be especially hard to achieve given more than a half century of enmity — including a nuclear arms race — between Pakistan and India.

All told, the 21,000 additional American troops that Mr. Obama will have authorized almost precisely matches the original number of additional troops that President George W. Bush sent to Iraq two years ago, bringing the overall American deployment in Afghanistan to about 60,000. But Mr. Obama avoids calling it a “surge” and resisted sending the full reinforcements initially sought by commanders.

Instead, Mr. Obama chose to re-evaluate troop levels at a series of specific moments over the next year, officials said. Approaching the issue in increments may be easier to explain to members of Mr. Obama’s own party who fear he is getting the country as entangled in Afghanistan as Mr. Bush did in Iraq.

Mr. Obama is framing the American commitment as a counterterrorism mission aimed at denying havens for Al Qaeda, with three main goals — training Afghan security forces, supporting the weak central government in Kabul and securing the population. While the new strategy calls for expanding Afghan security forces more rapidly, it does not explicitly endorse the request from American commanders to increase the national police and army to 400,000.

At the same time, Mr. Obama would need more than the $50 billion in his budget plan for military operations and development efforts. Asked on Thursday by lawmakers whom he briefed on the plan about the prospect of reconciliation with moderate members of the Taliban, officials said Mr. Obama replied that he wanted to sift out hard-core radicals from those who were fighting simply to earn money.

Senator Levin, who was part of a bipartisan group that pressed Mr. Bush to set benchmarks for Iraq two years ago, embraced the idea of doing the same again for Afghanistan. “There is a determination to set some benchmarks for Afghanistan, and that will be incredibly important,” Mr. Levin said. “We haven’t had them in Afghanistan.”

Dennis C. Blair, the administration’s director of national intelligence, said on Thursday that the United States still lacked intelligence about the power structures inside the country and other basic information necessary for a counterinsurgency campaign. “We know a heck of a lot more about Iraq on a granular level than we know about Afghanistan,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Blair estimated that up to three quarters of the Taliban’s rank and file in Afghanistan could be peeled away from the Taliban’s leadership, most of whom are hiding in sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 10:22 AM
Joe Klein (http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2009/03/27/obama-on-afpak/):

Just finished watching the President unveil his new Af/Pak strategy. It is, as advertised, comprehensive. Most of the details were known in advance, but it was impressive to watch Obama lay them out in a coherent fashion. Some highlights:

1. The most important aspect of Obama's review is a refocusing toward the situation in Pakistan. The terrorist safe havens in the tribal areas is the heart of the problem. Getting Pakistan to actually move against those safe havens is the most serious challenge we face--and it's no accident that US officials have acknowledged, for the first time this week, what was previously known but not commented upon: the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) funds, supports and conspires with the Taliban (epsecially the Afghani Taliban). At the same time, there has been a marked increase in cooperation from the Zardari government: all predator drone strikes have to be approved by the Pakistanis--and Zardari has approved four times as many in the past nine months as his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, approved in the year before that.

But there are still egregious situations that need to be addressed by the Pakistanis. The Haqqani madrasa, which sends terrorists across the Afghan border to kill American troops, is located no more than 1 kilometer away from the 9th division of the Pakistani Army. That gives new meaning to the term "safe haven." Similarly, the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar openly operates a shura in the border city of Quetta--right next to Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where most of the new American troops are being sent. Until the Pakistanis take action in those areas, they can't be considered reliable allies.

2. The economic aid package to Pakistan is unprecedented, and important, but we have to be extra-careful about how that money is disbursed by the Pakistani government. Another action that might be considered is lifting the tariffs on Pakistani-made textiles, which would be an enormous boon to building a stable middle class there.

3. Obama mentioned the "corruption" of the Afghan government. This is something Bush never did, and it send a crucial public signal--which I assume Richard Holbrooke has delivered privately--to the Karzai government. This emphasis on competence, as opposed to the Bush fantasy of democracy, is a significant change in emphasis.

4. The poppy solution is very notable. We'll offer wheat, then burn the crop if the farmers don't accept it. Then offer wheat again. These sorts of crop replacement programs don't have a fantastic track record, but the size of the poppy crop in Afghanistan has lowered prices, and also caused a real food shortage. For those reasons, the British troops in Helmand told me last December that they had some hope that a wheat replacement campaign might work.

5. No major increase in American troops, which had been requested by the military. The emphasis on training the Afghan Army and police is important, as is the intention to match US teams with Afghans, who have shown a real desire to defend their country in ethnically-mixed units. This proved very efficacious in Iraq, especially in urban areas. One immediate target of opportunity should be Kandahar city.

6. Iran is included--part of the list of countries that might form a contact group to deal with Afghanistan. No special emphasis. Just tucked in there, between Russia and India.

Taken together, this is a sober, well-reasoned policy. I hope it works.

HonestChieffan
03-27-2009, 10:45 AM
Hellllllllllllllllllllooooooo Viet Nammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

jAZ
03-27-2009, 10:53 AM
Hellllllllllllllllllllooooooo Viet Nammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Helloooo what we should have done after 9/11, instead of invading Iraq.

HonestChieffan
03-27-2009, 10:57 AM
what...ignore the request for more troops...Youall said Bush did that, now Obo is in it ...and spending billions is the answer?...come on...and rhetoric trying to get others into the fight and telling the pakis who to fight? Like hello...pakis and Indians are gonna fight even if Barrybaby says they shouldnt....

get ready for a long expensive failure.

Chief Henry
03-27-2009, 10:58 AM
but but harry Reid said the surge will not work

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 10:59 AM
what...ignore the request for more troops...Youall said Bush did that, now Obo is in it ...and spending billions is the answer?...come on...and rhetoric trying to get others into the fight and telling the pakis who to fight? Like hello...pakis and Indians are gonna fight even if Barrybaby says they shouldnt....

get ready for a long expensive failure.

My understanding is more brigades are coming, but we're waiting for them to pull out of Iraq first, which is actually incredibly responsible.

And the regional diplomacy far overshadows Bush's so far. Pakistan has already been open to our efforts to step up Predator attacks in Waziristan.

But its' hard for me to refute "and spending billions is the answer? Come on!" That sort of logic is just overpowering.

patteeu
03-27-2009, 10:59 AM
You've got it wrong, Direckshun. He's just now getting around to saying what he's going to do. We'll have to wait to see if he actually does it. I don't see much change here to gush over, but I hope we're successful.

I didn't notice anything about his specific plan to hunt down OBL though. Didn't he promise to do that during the campaign?

I wonder why you and other Bush bashers aren't making a stink about how Obama is ignoring his commanders and leaving our Af/Pak forces undermanned and undersupplied?

patteeu
03-27-2009, 11:03 AM
My understanding is more brigades are coming, but we're waiting for them to pull out of Iraq first, which is actually incredibly responsible.

And the regional diplomacy far overshadows Bush's so far. Pakistan has already been open to our efforts to step up Predator attacks in Waziristan.

But its' hard for me to refute "and spending billions is the answer? Come on!" That sort of logic is just overpowering.

Take the Obama colored glasses off. The rate of Predator attacks, with the covert blessing of the Pakistanis, increased under the Bush administration. You can't give Obama credit for that.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:08 AM
You've got it wrong, Direckshun. He's just now getting around to saying what he's going to do. We'll have to wait to see if he actually does it. I don't see much change here to gush over, but I hope we're successful.

I didn't notice anything about his specific plan to hunt down OBL though. Didn't he promise to do that during the campaign?

I wonder why you and other Bush bashers aren't making a stink about how Obama is ignoring his commanders and leaving our Af/Pak forces undermanned and undersupplied?

Can't move troops you don't have. Because the Iraq withdrawal is backloaded, I'd expect to see a brigade or two sent to Afghanistan once their withdrawal from Iraq occurs.

"Just now" getting around to it? Eight weeks into his Presidency? WHAT. A. SLACKER. He was touting a refocusing effort on Afghanistan and stepping up forces there throughout his campaign. Now he's going to start delivering.

By the way, I googled it, he never promised a specific plan to capture Osama (coincidentally, neither did Bush and I'm amused to see you start caring about the issue). Although I'm of the opinion that there should always be one.

The only thing Google turned up was that if we had Bin Laden in our sights, be it in Afghanistan or Waziristan, he'd pull the trigger 10 out of 10 times.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:10 AM
The rate of Predator attacks, with the covert blessing of the Pakistanis, increased under the Bush administration. You can't give Obama credit for that.

That's not what I've read, but it's not crucial to my point that the Obama administration's plans for regional diplomacy on Afghanistan overshadow Bush's.

patteeu
03-27-2009, 11:17 AM
Can't move troops you don't have. Because the Iraq withdrawal is backloaded, I'd expect to see a brigade or two sent to Afghanistan once their withdrawal from Iraq occurs.

"Just now" getting around to it? Eight weeks into his Presidency? WHAT. A. SLACKER. He was touting a refocusing effort on Afghanistan and stepping up forces there throughout his campaign. Now he's going to start delivering.

By the way, I googled it, he never promised a specific plan to capture Osama (coincidentally, neither did Bush and I'm amused to see you start caring about the issue). Although I'm of the opinion that there should always be one.

The only thing Google turned up was that if we had Bin Laden in our sights, be it in Afghanistan or Waziristan, he'd pull the trigger 10 out of 10 times.

What you don't seem to get is that he never really promised much of anything specific relative to Af/Pak or Bin Laden in his campaign. That's why I found it amusing that you lead the OP off with "Again, it's exactly what he said he'd do." No, he's just getting around to announcing what he's going to do and what he's going to do happens to be something that falls short of what his commanders say he needs to do.

And it's similarly laughable that you give him a pass for ignoring his commanders' requests because he has to wait for more troops from Iraq. He's either refocusing us or he's not. He controls both situations. Is he just going to half ass both efforts?

patteeu
03-27-2009, 11:20 AM
That's not what I've read, but it's not crucial to my point that the Obama administration's plans for regional diplomacy on Afghanistan overshadow Bush's.

Then you're reading the wrong sources. Your own Joe Klein commentary mentions it:

Zardari has approved four times as many in the past nine months as his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, approved in the year before that.

Obama has only been the sock puppet of our TOTUS for 2 months.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:21 AM
Then you're reading the wrong sources. Your own Joe Klein commentary mentions it.

That's fair, but my larger point stands.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:28 AM
What you don't seem to get is that he never really promised much of anything specific relative to Af/Pak or Bin Laden in his campaign. That's why I found it amusing that you lead the OP off with "Again, it's exactly what he said he'd do." No, he's just getting around to announcing what he's going to do and what he's going to do happens to be something that falls short of what his commanders say he needs to do.

And it's similarly laughable that you give him a pass for ignoring his commanders' requests because he has to wait for more troops from Iraq. He's either refocusing us or he's not. He controls both situations. Is he just going to half ass both efforts?

I'm sorry, but we're listening to two completely different versions of reality. In my version, Obama talked extensively about putting more boots on the ground in Afghanistan, and has sworn since he's been in office to do just that. He's talked extensively in his book, during his campaign, and as President about getting neighbors involved in the conflict. And there's been ample discussion about engaging Pakistan throughout his campaign. So I just don't know where you're getting your news, but I have a couple ideas.

Your second paragraph is just retarded. We'll get there when we get there, it doesn't happen overnight, nor should it happen overnight.

patteeu
03-27-2009, 11:39 AM
I'm sorry, but we're listening to two completely different versions of reality. In my version, Obama talked extensively about putting more boots on the ground in Afghanistan, and has sworn since he's been in office to do just that. He's talked extensively in his book, during his campaign, and as President about getting neighbors involved in the conflict. And there's been ample discussion about engaging Pakistan throughout his campaign. So I just don't know where you're getting your news, but I have a couple ideas.

Your second paragraph is just retarded. We'll get there when we get there, it doesn't happen overnight, nor should it happen overnight.

What is the big deal about the general concept (not a promise of any specificity) of putting more troops on the ground and getting neighbors involved? Bush was doing both of those things. :shrug:

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:40 AM
What is the big deal about the general concept (not a promise of any specificity) of putting more troops on the ground and getting neighbors involved? Bush was doing both of those things. :shrug:

Still clinging to the coalition of the willing, eh.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 12:22 PM
Michael Yon (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/obama-on-afghanistan-disappointing.htm):

President Obama has just spoken on AfPak. I closed my eyes and listened closely to his words, coming via the BBC from the other side of the world.

The President's words were disappointing. He talked about our goal to reach a force level of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police by 2011. This is not even in the neighborhood of being enough. Further, the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire. One can only expect that sometime in 2010, the President will again be forced to announce another increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

If there were not people like Gates and Petraeus up there, my gut would say to pull out. It is only my faith in the military, and what I saw them accomplish against heavy odds in Iraq, that gives me hope.

Others would disagree with me. A well placed and very experienced British officer just emailed me his impressions, to whit:

“An impressive statement of intent – I particularly liked the bits about bearing down on Afghan corruption and corruption in how USAID money is spent. The speech inspires confidence and, as he is not Bush, it could encourage others to come to the party in a more meaningful way.

I don’t mean any offence about Bush as I for one see history judging him more favorably than contemporary commentators it’s just that the Europeans might follow Obama in a way that they never would Bush.”
And so my views clearly are not held by everyone. Most British and American officers – especially American – have been far more positive about Afghanistan than I have been. My confidence in them is great, and before publishing this I called London to talk about this. Clearly there is more confidence coming from the British Army than meets the public eye.

patteeu
03-27-2009, 12:26 PM
Michael Yon (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/obama-on-afghanistan-disappointing.htm):

President Obama has just spoken on AfPak. I closed my eyes and listened closely to his words, coming via the BBC from the other side of the world.

The President's words were disappointing. He talked about our goal to reach a force level of 134,000 Afghan soldiers and 82,000 police by 2011. This is not even in the neighborhood of being enough. Further, the increase of 21,000 U.S. troops is likely just a bucket of water on the growing bonfire. One can only expect that sometime in 2010, the President will again be forced to announce another increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

If there were not people like Gates and Petraeus up there, my gut would say to pull out. It is only my faith in the military, and what I saw them accomplish against heavy odds in Iraq, that gives me hope.

Others would disagree with me. A well placed and very experienced British officer just emailed me his impressions, to whit:


And so my views clearly are not held by everyone. Most British and American officers – especially American – have been far more positive about Afghanistan than I have been. My confidence in them is great, and before publishing this I called London to talk about this. Clearly there is more confidence coming from the British Army than meets the public eye.

Let's hope that the Brit's optimism is well founded.

chiefzilla1501
03-27-2009, 11:28 PM
I don't have a problem with Obama's Afghanistan plan. In fact, I like it. But amongst the entire budget, it just seems like there's a huge running tab of new spending. I'm fine with more gov't spending and I'm fine with being more aggressive in Afghanistan, but it just furthers my point that he needs to be more open to cutting back spending in other parts of the budget to accommodate for major spending in areas like this.

Direckshun
03-30-2009, 08:34 PM
Steve Coll (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/03/the-new-afghanp.html):

The New Afghanistan Strategy
March 30, 2009

A few words, then, about President Obama’s announced strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, which the Administration rolled out in Washington on Friday with a speech, a few interviews, and a day-long series of off-the-record briefings in the Eisenhower Executive office building, next door to the White House. With my think-tank hat on, I’ve floated around the edges of the policy review discussions since earlier this year. The review was led by Bruce Reidel, a former C.I.A. analyst who came over to the National Security Council from Brookings; Douglas Lute, a retired general who served as war czar in the Bush Administration, and has been asked to stay on at the N.S.C.; and Richard Holbrooke, the president’s special envoy to the region, based at the State Department. In addition to these three, General David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have been involved, along with their staffs. Holbrooke and Petraeus will be the implementing leaders forward from here, with Lute anchoring at the White House. Reidel, who did terrific work, is going back to Brookings, as he said he would from the beginning.

In a sense, this review has been going on since last summer, when the Bush Administration initiated a policy review as it headed for the exits. Most of the key policy ideas Obama and his aides announced on Friday have been more or less obvious from the beginning of the year. These include: Addressing Pakistan and Afghanistan as a unified theater of operations, as the Taliban and Al Qaeda do; building up the Afghan National Army, so that U.S. and N.A.T.O. forces can gradually withdraw from combat; reinforcing stability in the two countries with more vigorous regional diplomacy, involving India, Iran, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia; improving population security in Afghanistan; and rebalancing engagement in Pakistan to support the civilian sector and to hold the Army more accountable. A sixty-day policy review was formally necessary so that President Obama and his advisers could systematically decide on their priorities and also so that they could develop language to explain their plans and goals to an increasingly skeptical American public. But the review was also an exercise in building up understanding and support for the policy and the investments it will require in Congress, among allies, in the media, and so on.

During the review process, however, at least two things happened that were not preconceived. There was a serious debate about how to define American goals in Afghanistan. To some extent the review provided a proxy - an early test - for a larger argument inside the Obama Administration, and within the Democratic Party (and for that matter, the Republican Party) between reviving realists, who want to scale back American ambition and reemphasize interests over values in foreign policy, and neo-liberals, who want to rescue the Wilsonian precepts of democracy promotion and universal rights from the damage caused to them by the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq and its unilateral overreach. At first, within the Obama Administration, it seemed as if the two schools might use the Afghanistan-Pakistan problem as an abstract theater for their ideological battles, and in doing so, fail to see the pressing issues in their granular specificity. In fact, this did not occur. Partly, this was because no matter whether you are a realist or a neo-Wilsonian, it is obvious that America has vital interests in a stable Pakistan and a stable Afghanistan (at least in part because a stable Pakistan is not likely if Afghanistan’s Pashtun population is in a state of revolutionary fervor). Given the inheritance from the Bush Administration, the policies necessary to chase that outcome are essentially the same no matter what ideological framework you set them in. Also—and this I did not witness directly, but I infer it—President Obama’s method of judicial supervision of policy development played a role, toward the end, in forcing a practical synthesis out of the initial, more ideological debates about goal-setting.

One other thing happened during the review that was not preconceived, I think. For the first time in decades, the entire American foreign policy and national security system—the uniformed military, the State Department, the N.S.C.—really bore down on the problem of Pakistan, in all of its daunting complexity. Past patterns of failure in American analysis and policy toward Pakistan—such as credulity toward the Army and the military intelligence service, I.S.I.; the tendency to invest heavily in personalities, rather than in sustainable policy; and a general naĬveté and lack of attention—gave way gradually to hard-headed, pragmatic discourse about the true nature of the problems in Pakistan, and U.S. options for addressing them. This change is not one hundred percent complete within the bureaucracy, but it marks a considerable leap forward in American thinking on Pakistan. Reidel deserves some of the credit because he came to the review with a clear, skeptical eye and a great deal of pragmatic experience. As a result, although it will not always be visible in public, the Obama Administration is about to undertake the most realistic, least self-deluding attempt to use American resources and leverage pursue stability in Pakistan in the history of U.S. involvement in South Asia.

That, unfortunately, is no guarantee of success. Conceiving a very difficult problem correctly does not mean that you can solve it. Preventing the Taliban and Al Qaeda from expanding their Gaza-like base in Western Pakistan or making further inroads against the state; encouraging and coercing the Pakistan Army to break with its long history of support for jihadi clients; rescuing the Pakistani economy from collapse; establishing a sustainable basis for power-sharing between civilian politicians and the Army that does not in turn weaken the state against its insurgent enemies—it is hard to imagine a more difficult or more treacherous complex of problems. In Afghanistan, it is almost certainly not too late to set things right. In Pakistan, it is harder to be sure. In early 2008, Pakistani voters overwhelmingly rejected the country’s religious parties and made clear that they do not wish to live in a Taliban-ruled country. It’s not clear, however, whether the Pakistani state is strong and unified enough to deliver to its population the stability and normalcy that a majority of Pakistanis would prefer.