Parag Khanna, Director of the Global Governance Initiative and Senior Research Fellow in the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, recently coauthored with Michael A. Cohen an article in Foreign Policy entitled, “Where the Real Fight Is”. Khanna and Cohen reassess the feasibility of US military and political goals in Afghanistan versus Pakistan vis-à-vis the realities on the ground in both nations, and endorse a realignment of U.S. strategy accordingly. In light of the waning influence of the Taliban, the inability of Afghan security forces to contribute significantly to counterinsurgency missions, and the poor prospects for nation-building in Afghanistan, Khanna and Cohen advocate a shift in US focus and resources (i.e. the 20,000 newly dispatched troops and the $65 billion spent annually on the war in Afghanistan) to Pakistan, where improved US-Pakistani intelligence-sharing has translated into military success in the form of drone attacks on the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership.
Ultimately, the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will cost significantly more in U.S. blood and treasure, and it has at best a marginal chance of success. Far better would be a more limited strategy that eschews the goal of nation-building in Afghanistan and embraces that goal in Pakistan. It is there, not in Afghanistan, that the United States can deal al Qaeda a devastating blow and foster regional stability. The sooner the United States realizes that the better.
Parag Khanna will speak at TEDGlobal 2009 in Oxford this Thursday, July 23 in the Wordview Rethink session.