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Fred Kagan on Afghan Metrics

4:23 PM, Sep 16, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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I emailed Fred Kagan for his take on the administration's metrics for progress in Afghanistan, first reported by FP's Josh Rogin earlier today. Here is his response:

The most important thing about the metrics leaked from the Obama Administration today is that they indicate a continued commitment to a serious and properly-resourced counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Note the following: "Objective 3a. Defeat the extremist insurgency, secure the Afghan populace, and develop increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance." and "Objective 3b. Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support." The "metrics" themselves are less important than the fact that the Administration is still pursuing these objectives, despite pressures to abandon them or to define success down. And President Obama is absolutely right to remain committed to these aims.

Without defeating the insurgent groups in Afghanistan, there is no way for the United States to prevent al Qaeda and its trans-national terrorist allies from re-establishing themselves under the auspices of the Taliban. Abandoning Afghanistan in pursuit of some chimerical counter-terrorism strategy would not only undermine Pakistan's recent efforts (and successes) against its own internal Islamist foes, but would also strengthen the hands of those within the Pakistani government and military who have been supporting the militants and defending their support by arguing for the need to hedge against an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It would also seriously damage already-strained relations between the US and India--whose leaders strongly believe that their interests require the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan--and could potentially destabilize the subcontinent.

The White House delays in evaluating and approving General McChrystal's assessment and request for forces are inexplicable considering the urgency with which the President himself says that we must address the problems in this theater of war. Every day's delay is another day the US is not accelerating the growth of Afghan Security Forces, is not implementing the counter-insurgency strategy General McChrystal has proposed, is allowing the enemy to continue to make gains and prepare, and is undermining confidence in America's will to continue this fight throughout the region. The new commander, selected by President Obama, has completed his review and made his recommendations. The president has announced his policy and, with these metrics, reaffirmed his aims. The time to act is now.