The recommendation to drawdown troops from the south challenges the assumption that in order to have security, anti-government insurgents need to be weakened on the battlefield.
Hoh argues that instead of focusing on battlefield gains first, the U.S. should instead focus on a political solution. He argues that once anti-government insurgents feel part of the political process and don't have to worry about political exclusion, they will give up supporting the Taliban. Counterinsurgency theory says the government and pro-government forces should clear, hold, build and transfer. What Hoh is suggesting practically the opposite.
"You won't have any growth in capacity, you won't have any successful development work until you achieve some degree of political stability," Hoh said.
Critics have responded vigorously online to the report, questioning its authors' expertise on Afghanistan, evidence for the report's recommendations and assertions, and the feasibility of its recommendations. The study group members have responded back just as vigorously, most notably on columnist Joshua Foust's website, www.registan.net.
Some panelists at the launch event made it clear they did not support all the reports' conclusions and added caveats.
But New America Foundation's Steve Clemons -- one of the group's founding member and host of the event -- said that although the group's discussions were materialized in a report, it was only the start of an ongoing dialogue they hope to spark among Americans looking for a new way forward in Afghanistan.
Clemons is also hoping the report will spark dialogue among U.S. officials.
"We have many friends in the administration. Richard Holbrooke and I have talked a great deal. I've been invited to talk with his team," he said, referring to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"What we're trying to do is enhance serious dialogue and debate," Clemons said. "It is in the absence of success that we're trying to say it's time to basically come back and begin thinking about other inputs in that debate and discussion."
The report can be read online HERE.