Inside the Ring

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

Afghanistan debate

The Obama administration has conducted a vigorous internal debate over its new strategy for Afghanistan, expected to be unveiled by the president in a speech Friday.

According to two U.S. government sources close to the issue, senior policymakers were divided over how comprehensive to make the strategy, involving an initial boost of 17,000 U.S. troops.

On the one side were Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg, who argued in closed-door meetings for a minimal strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan that one source described as a “lowest common denominator” approach.

U.S. boosting force in Afghanistan
EXCLUSIVE: $5 billion for Afghans still unspent
NATO gains commitment, but not for Afghanistan

The goal of these advocates was to limit civilian and other nonmilitary efforts in Afghanistan and focus on a main military objective of denying safe haven to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

The other side of the debate was led by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy for the region, who along with U.S. Central Command leader Gen. David H. Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought for a major nation-building effort.

The Holbrooke-Petraeus-Clinton faction, according to the sources, prevailed. The result is expected to be a major, long-term military and civilian program to reinvent Afghanistan from one of the most backward, least developed nations to a relatively prosperous democratic state.

According to one defense official close to the debate, the key to success in Afghanistan remains eliminating terrorist safe havens and training camps, which are no longer in Afghanistan but in Pakistan.

“However, all of our actions are oriented on four lines of operation - security to set conditions for governance, development, rule of law with information operations and counternarcotics cross-cutting efforts,” the official said.

The key to any strategy remains Pakistan and its border regions, which remain terror safe havens, said the official, who, like the other sources, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Additionally, Gen. Petraeus made sure the Afghan strategy sought to borrow from the successful counterinsurgency strategy and tactics used in Iraq. According to one official in Afghanistan, many of the Afghans are not “hateful against the West.”

A White House spokesman and an aide to Mr. Holbrooke declined to comment on the strategy or the debate over it.

North Korea launch

New satellite photos reveal North Korea is getting closer to launching its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which Pyongyang has said will put a satellite in orbit.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story
About the Author


Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...

Latest Stories

blog comments powered by Disqus