November 28 2012
Reports this week suggest the Obama administration is considering reducing the number of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan to around 10,000 by 2014. Unfortunately, this discussion is happening in something of a vacuum. As the U.S. withdraws its forces, military and civilian officials have yet to clearly outline strategic objectives for the region and discuss the tasks required to achieve those objectives.
Indeed, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is only one of several important policy choices—and not necessarily the most important one. For example: What will the U.S. do about the insurgent sanctuary in Pakistan? In a country where tribes, sub-tribes, and clans still retain substantial power in rural areas, how much will the U.S. strategy depend on Afghan central government action?