As the Obama administration begins to review its Afghan war strategy, an independent task force on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan is recommending a "more significant drawdown to a narrower military mission" if the current strategy does not begin showing signs of progress.
"To continue the current course in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the sacrifices it entails, progress must be visible and timely," a report released Friday by the task force stated.
Although the task force, directed by the Council on Foreign Relations, offered a qualified endorsement of President Obama's approach to the region, including the expansion of U.S. assistance to Pakistan, the troop surge and July 2011 conditions-based drawdown, it highlighted "a number of potential problems with the policy."
"If the December 2010 review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan concludes that the present strategy is not working, the Task Force recommends that a shift to a more limited mission at a substantially reduced level of military force would be warranted," CFR president Richard Haass wrote in the report's foreword.
However, the recommendation comes amid a recent drumbeat of positive assessments of the nine-year-old war effort by top Pentagon officials.
"I would hope that it would be that people would recognize that we're making progress in Afghanistan -- that this is worth doing and that the sacrifices our young men and women are making is, in fact, producing success," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told ABC News earlier this week.
"It is just now that the strategy has been adequately resourced. Now it is being executed," Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday in Los Angeles. "It is fairly chaotic in some areas and yet we've started to see some progress."
And Friday, ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, said coalition forces are making "real, tangible progress" against the Taliban, and that more areas were becoming secure.
Although the administration has tripled the number of U.S. civilians in Afghanistan to more than 1,000 to help build Afghan government capacity and economic development, the report said that "the Obama administration will need to find a way to address the government's weakness, corruption, and political division."
The report also recommended that Washington take the lead in reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government -- a recommendation also made by the New America Foundation's Afghanistan Study Group.
"Rather than leaving the reconciliation process to [Afghan] President Karzai and his narrow support base, Washington should participate fully in guiding a broad-based, inclusive process, bearing in mind that a rapid breakthrough at the negotiating table is unlikely. Afghan reform and reconciliation should then be supported by a regional diplomatic accord brokered by the United States," the report states.
U.S. officials will have a chance to discuss these topics at the upcoming NATO conference in Lisbon, Portugal next week, where coalition leaders will review the war effort.
CFR spokeswoman Anya Schmemenn said in an email to ABC that the report has been delivered to many officials, and they hope it will be read.