Creating New Facts on the Ground

Creating New Facts on the Ground
Policy Outlook
Continued military pressure will allow the United States to alter the realities on the ground in Afghanistan, convince the Taliban to consider reconciliation, and enable effective regional diplomacy to find a successful solution for the country.
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  • Although meaningful cooperation in the region surrounding Afghanistan is of vital importance, it has been elusive because Afghanistan’s key neighbors have significantly divergent aims. Engineering a successful regional solution would require the United States to fundamentally transform either these actors’ objectives or their dominant strategies. Achieving the latter may prove more feasible, most crucially vis-à-vis Pakistan.

  • The region’s history of discord is mainly rooted in the troubled relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan is colored by its rivalry with India, its relations with Afghanistan are a geopolitical challenge independent of India because of its fears of disorder along its western borders, the unwelcome idea of “Pashtunistan,” and a related long-standing border dispute.

  • Pakistan’s reaction to these problems has only exacerbated them. As Islamabad, by supporting the Taliban insurgency, has sought to exercise preponderant, if not overweening, influence over Kabul’s strategic choices, it has earned Kabul’s distrust, deepened the Kabul–New Delhi partnership, and increased the risk to its relations with Washington—not to mention threatening the lives of U.S. and other coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

  • Despite widespread support in Afghanistan for ending the war through a negotiated settlement if possible, the Afghan Taliban leadership is unlikely to consider reconciliation unless it is faced with the prospect of continued losses of the kind sustained as a result of coalition military operations in 2010. A regional solution is similarly unlikely as long as Afghanistan and its neighbors, including India, perceive Islamabad as bent on holding Kabul in a choking embrace.

  • Solving these problems lies beyond the capability of American diplomacy, and right now even of the promised diplomatic surge. The best hope for progress lies in continuing military action to alter the realities on the ground—thereby inducing the Taliban to consider reconciliation, while simultaneously neutralizing the Pakistani strategy that is currently preventing a regional solution.

  • To increase the probability of military success, however, President Obama will need to forgo the politically calculated drawdown of combat troops this summer and instead accept the advice of his field commanders to maintain the largest possible contingent necessary for the coming campaign in eastern Afghanistan. Hard and unpalatable as it might be for the president, this course alone offers a solution that will protect the recent gains in Afghanistan and advance American interests over the long term.
End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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