When President Barack Obama unveiled his “comprehensive, new strategy” for the war in Afghanistan it struck many how decidedly old most of the strategy looked. A vague justification for throwing more money and troops at the seemingly endless war, bundled with posturing about how vital the war’s success ultimately would be.
But is that the whole story? Was the much-heralded new strategy just about polishing up the same old escalation in Afghanistan and selling it as a change? Perhaps the real novelty in this plan takes place outside of Afghanistan, in neighboring Pakistan.
Indeed, while they emphasize Afghanistan in public comments about this plan, the white paper (PDF) distributed by the White House on the strategy looks decidedly Pakistan-centric. It calls for “a more capable, accountable, and effective government” in Afghanistan, but promises “a vibrant economy” for Pakistan. It pledges to “disrupt terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan.”
While promising “A New Way Forward” (not so coincidentally the working title of the 2007 escalation in Iraq), it seems that all roads lead to Pakistan. The government will be getting billions in new aid, the US is committing itself to fight militants in the area (above and beyond the repeated drone attacks). They’re not even ruling out sending ground troops.
So Afghanistan has its new strategy, which is its old strategy with more guys. But maybe the real story here is that President Obama has made the equivalent of a de facto declaration of war against Pakistan’s border regions.