Experts Disagree on New US Afghan War Strategy

How will Obama's new Afghanistan strategy affect the country's fragile political and social climate? Experts, not surprisingly, are divided in their opinions. Some think the move may complicate the situation while others are more optimistic.

The Heritage Foundation's Lisa Curtis and James Phillips argue that Obama's decision to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan is a welcome move, but that his plan to withdraw all American troops from the country by 2011 signals a lack of long-term U.S. commitment to this war-torn country.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic International Studies, on the other hand, cautions against hasty criticism. Obama's Dec. 1 speech at the West Point military academy, in which he outlined U.S. plans, was too brief to base judgment on, Cordesman said. Skeptics should hold their criticism until the plan is being implemented.

In their opinion piece, Curtis and Phillips note that the planned 18-month surge is "an unrealistically brief time frame" for troops to accomplish their mission, which includes building the Afghan army's capacity to fight the Taliban. Giving a withdrawal time line also gives the Taliban a psychological boost that they can just wait for the U.S. to leave before regaining power, the two Heritage Foundation senior research fellows argue.

Cordesman acknowledges that Obama's strategy has a loop hole: It oversimplified the nature and objective of the war. The U.S. president failed to discuss the importance of regional stability and instead focused mainly on al-Qaeda and its insurgent affiliates, Cordesman argues.

Overall, Obama is seeking to allocate more resources where they are needed, and avoid mistakes made by the Bush administration, Cordesman says. He notes that the new U.S. strategy seems to focus less on counterterrorism than rebuilding and transferring capacity.

Curtis and Philipps agree on that point. But the two insist: "Security must come first."

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.