Which way in Afghanistan?

President Obama has declared that, in Afghanistan, “we are on track to achieve our goals.” The truth of this assessment probably depends on what our goals are. If our goals are to beat back the Taliban and lay the groundwork for an Afghanistan in which Afghan forces eventually can secure the country against the Taliban, it can be argued that we are on track, although I think it’s clear we have a long way to go.
But if part of our goal is to accomplish this on the cheap, with U.S. forces beginning to leave Afghanistan in significant numbers next year, then I doubt we are on track. The administration’s own summary of its review of Obama’s policy acknowledges that “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” It is also, by most accounts I’ve read, far from universal. And, again as acknowledged in the administration’s review, much more progress is required in eliminating Taliban sanctuaries on Pakistan, if progress in Afghanistan is to be sustained.
Thus, it is encouraging that Secretary of State Clinton, during the same conference, stated that “we have a long way to go….we’re very clear-eyed and realistic.” These words suggest an administration committed for the long haul, notwithstanding past statements about starting to draw down in mid-2011. But we’ll have to see.

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