At the end of March, the Obama administration announced its new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A few days ago, Robert Gates, the defence secretary, said the US and its allies had a year in which to make meaningful progress, or else support at home for the war would leak away.
This past week I have been in Kabul, marvelling at the tenacity of a city that has suffered three decades of destruction and tyranny, and trying to get a better sense of the challenges that confront US policy. I cannot say I come away encouraged.
The new strategy does improve on the previous approach. Each of its main components is a step forward: the military surge, the commitment to economic development and the regional dimension.
In principle, these innovations make sense. Extra troops are needed to suppress the insurgency. Economic development must be part of any successful resolution and the new strategy promises extra resources – a civilian surge, as it is called – to that end. And security cannot be established in Afghanistan if insurgents have a safe haven across the theoretical border with Pakistan.
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