Without Progress, U.S. Should Narrow Afghan Mission, Report Says

Nov 13, 2010 5:30pm

ABC News' Kristina Wong reports: An independent task force on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan released a report Friday recommending that if the current war strategy in the region does not begin showing signs of progress, “a more significant drawdown to a narrower military mission would be warranted.”

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 troops surge, and July 2011 conditions-based drawdown, but highlights "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.

However, the recommendation comes amidst a recent drumbeat of positive assessments of the nine-year-old war effort by top Pentagon officials, as well as projections of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan at least until 2014.

“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. It is fairly chaotic in some areas,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said T'hursday in Los Angeles, “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 within the last year, the administration has tripled the number of U.S. civilians in Afghanistan to over 1,000 to help build Afghan government capacity and economic development, the report states "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 put forth 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 spokesperson Anya Schmemenn said in an email to ABC that the report has been delivered to many officials, and they hope it will be read.

The bipartisan task force is chaired by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former national security adviser Sandy Berger, directed by CFR senior fellow Daniel Markey, and includes two dozen South Asia experts including Amb. John Negroponte, Steve Coll, C. Christine Fair, Ashley Tellis, Teresita Schaffer, and counterinsurgency experts Lt. Gen. David Barno (ret.) and Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.).

Find a copy of the report HERE. — Kristina Wong

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