President Barack Obama declared today that a “comprehensive strategy” in Afghanistan was key, and that no longer could America “think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems.” Though vague, the president said the strategy would include “building economic capacity” in Afghanistan, and launching more diplomatic efforts in the region. He also said it was important for his new plan to include some sort of “exit strategy,” though with the government still in escalation mode in Afghanistan that appears to be more of a best case scenario.
Yet President Obama also conceded that Afghanistan was a much “tougher” task than Iraq, and replicating what the Administration has been selling as “success” in Iraq (which is to say continuous violence, failing infrastructure and 50,000 troops remaining indefinitely) would be easier said than done. The president pointed to Iraq’s “much better educated population,” adding “you don’t have some of the same destabilizing border issues that you have between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
One military official said that the plan, which covers the next three to five years, would triple the cost of non-military assistance and would also include a major boost to military aid to Pakistan. The president seems to hope the new strategy (which looks remarkably like the old strategy of throwing more and more money at the problem) will finally turn things around, though with the expectations set so low in Afghanistan even slowing the growth of Taliban influence in the region will likely be presented as a success.