WASHINGTON—Osama bin Laden’s death will intensify the debate in Washington over U.S. strategy and plans in Afghanistan. While U.S. policy makers generally agree that a regional solution is essential for transitioning security in Afghanistan, meaningful cooperation among its neighbors remains elusive.
Ashley J. Tellis explains in a new policy brief that continued U.S. military action—more than the promised American diplomatic surge—is the best hope for building a successful regional solution and ultimately ending the Afghan war. Only by altering realities on the ground can the United States induce the Taliban to consider reconciliation and neutralize the Pakistani strategy that is preventing a regional solution.
- Pakistan’s strategies are exacerbating regional instability. Pakistan’s troubled relationship with Afghanistan—which includes a longstanding border dispute—remains at the core of regional discord. By supporting the Taliban insurgency, Islamabad has earned Kabul’s distrust and deepened the relationship between Afghanistan and India, Pakistan’s rival.
- Afghanistan’s neighbors need to transform their strategies. As long as Afghanistan’s neighbors, including India, perceive Islamabad as bent on holding Kabul in a choking embrace, a regional solution is unlikely. The United States must secure sufficient success in Afghanistan in order to force Rawalpindi, home of army headquarters, to change its current approach to Kabul.
- United States must maintain surge levels. President Obama must forgo the politically calculated drawdown of combat troops this summer and instead follow the advice of field commanders to maintain the largest possible contingent for the coming campaign in eastern Afghanistan.
While a large continued military presence might be difficult and unpalatable for President Obama, “this course alone offers a solution that will protect the recent gains in Afghanistan and advance American interests over the long term,” Tellis writes.
Ashley J. Tellis is a senior associate in the Carnegie South Asia Program. He specializes in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues and was intimately involved in the negotiations associated with the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. Previously, he was a senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to India and was a special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia in the National Security Council.
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.
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