LTG (Ret.) David Barno, Matt Irvine and I have published a new report (.pdf) with the Center for a New American Security that attempts to identify the components of a successful U.S. strategy for Central and South Asia. Our research began in the fall of 2010 and included research trips to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We also assembled several working groups comprised of both area specialists as well as functional area specialists to help us identify planning assumptions, U.S. interests, and policy options. In the end, we recommend the United States:
- Negotiate a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the government of Afghanistan.
- Develop a long-term but differentiated approach to Pakistan that strengthens its economy, civilian government and anti-extremist elements while pressuring factions that support terrorists.
- Reshape foreign and security assistance to Pakistan.
- Broker confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan quietly and as opportunities arise.
- Sustain and deepen a multidimensional U.S.-India relationship and encourage the peaceful rise of China.
- Promote open trade and transit across South and Central Asia to catalyze economic growth and enhance stability.
- Develop a strategic public engagement plan for the region to mitigate the effects of the intense anti-Americanism that preclude greater cooperation with the United States.
UPDATE: Joshuas Kucera and Foust have written thoughtful critiques of the report worth your time. I want to thank both for taking the time to read the report and offer their own analysis. Both analysts lament, in their own ways, how little priority we give to Central Asia in this report. Let me briefly respond by assuring our readers this was a deliberate decision made after much thought and discussion about limited U.S. resources available as well as other, competing priorities. Within Central and South Asia, the U.S. relationship with India dominates our long-term interests, and the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan dominates our near-term interests. Pakistan, meanwhile, the central focus of our report, has the potential to decisively affect both. (This much, I think, is somewhat obvious, yes?) So again, given limited resources and competing priorities, we made a deliberate decision to de-emphasize the importance of Central Asia for U.S. policy makers. Every region of the globe is important, of course, and the United States has at least some interests everywhere. But in deciding where the United States should allot its limited resources and focus the energies of its policy-makers, departments and agencies, we make the case the United States should spend the most time thinking through the problems of Pakistan. Again, I think our logic makes sense even if you disagree. Just starting from an assumptions-and-interests analysis, we did not conclude Central Asia to be as important to the United States and its interests going forward as the three states -- Afghanistan, India, Pakistan -- to which we devote the most time in our report.