December 17, 2010

What We're Trying to Do in Afghanistan

A friend of mine pointed out this passage in the press conference with Sec. Gates. This is about as clear an articulation of U.S. and allied goals as you will read:

SEC. GATES: I think part of -- I think the key here is identifying our objectives carefully. What do we need to accomplish to achieve our goals? Our goal isn't -- as the president said, our goal isn't to build a 21st century Afghanistan. Our goal is not a country that is free of corruption, which would be unique in the entire region. Our goal -- our goal is -- what is necessary, in my view -- our goal is: What do we need to do, along with our partners and the Afghans, to turn back the Taliban's military and violent capabilities to the degree that the Afghan government forces can deal with them, and to provide some minimal capability at the local, district and provincial level for security, for dispute resolution, for perhaps a clinic within an hour's walk?


What we are trying to work our way toward is what are -- what -- just what do we have to do to be able to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans, with us in the background and perhaps -- and a train-and-equip mission like we've increasingly taken on in Iraq?


And I think one of the things that the administration has done -- and frankly, one of the benefits of the protracted review a year ago and the review that we've just been through -- is keeping us focused on not getting too ambitious and not setting goals that we can't achieve, and trying to have a minimalist approach that focuses on al- Qaida and on the Taliban and on Afghan capabilities, both military and civilian.


The civilian piece is a challenge, there's no question about it. But we've got 1,100 U.S. civilians; we have thousands of partner civilians in Afghanistan working to help provide that capital.


And I would say it's important to have it not just in the central government in Kabul but to have it at some minimal level also at the local district/provincial level. And one of the virtues of the local police initiatives that we're seeing, the local security initiatives, is that they are empowered by the local tribal elders or the shuras. And so they're taking leadership of this. And as far as I'm concerned, if that can provide security for that village or that area, we've accomplished our objectives.