Afghanistan: Why Obama is rethinking 'war of necessity'
Waning American support for the war and allegations of fraud in the Afghan elections have turned a policy review into a fervent debate about the Afghanistan conflict within the Obama administration.
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"The most dubious argument out there is that you can somehow reduce the risks the situation in Afghanistan presents by also reducing the costs," says James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand Corp. in Arlington, Va. There's no basis for the idea that you can achieve the same objectives at lower costs, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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But others have suggested that Afghanistan won't become an Al Qaeda haven even if a resurgent Taliban were to reestablish control over large sections of the country. And even if it did, some analysts say the US can't afford to "right" all states where such havens might arise – especially since terrorists targeting the US don't necessarily require a safe base from which to operate.
The current debate over Afghanistan inflates the threat that a potentially reestablished safe haven would pose to US security, said Paul Pillar, a former deputy director of the CIA's counterterrorist center, in a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post. The issue is not whether such a haven would be useful to terrorists, he wrote.
"Instead, the issue is whether preventing such a haven would reduce the terrorist threat to the US enough … to offset the required expenditure of blood and treasure and the barriers to success in Afghanistan, including an ineffective regime and sagging support from the population," he wrote.
That argument reflects a legitimate weighing of the "risks and costs" of the Afghanistan war, says Mr. Dobbins, who was a special adviser on Afghanistan to both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
But should Obama stick to his counterinsurgency strategy, he adds, he will have little choice but to increase both troops and funding. "We've learned in the last few years in Iraq what we should have learned a number of times in the past," Dobbins says.
One lesson is simply "what the necessary elements of a counterinsurgency strategy are, but it's also the need to adequately resource such a strategy."
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