(Reuters)- A White House review of President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy reported on Thursday that U.S. and NATO forces are making headway against the Taliban and al Qaeda but that serious challenges remain.
Here are some reactions to the White House review from military leaders, policymakers and experts.
”Our strategy is sound and we have in place the necessary resources to accomplish it. Now we have to consolidate those gains and make them irreversible. This is a challenging task, but we are determined to see it through.
“We are gradually creating the conditions to enable Afghan forces to take lead for security across the country by the end of 2014, with (foreign) forces moving into a supporting role.”
STATEMENT ISSUED BY BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON‘S PRESS OFFICE
”(The review) is consistent with the British government’s assessment and strategy, and with the agreements made by the international coalition and the Afghan government at the Lisbon NATO Summit.
”We also agree that we must use our civilian and military momentum to support a durable and favorable political resolution of the conflict.
“Like President Obama, we see 2011 as the year in which we have to make progress both lasting and irreversible.”
SENATOR JOHN KERRY, CHAIRMAN OF THE U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
”The administration review provides welcome evidence of progress in key parts of Afghanistan ... and underscores that the president’s commitment to transferring authority to the Afghans has created a useful sense of urgency.
”At the same time, the assessment reminds us of the fragile nature of our progress, the challenges in other parts of Afghanistan, and the persistent problem of sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
“We need to remain clear-eyed and realistic in measuring progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our strategy and resources must match our objectives and our core mission, which is not building a perfect state, but defeating al Qaeda and denying it and its partners a secure base from which to launch attacks on the United States and its allies.”
PAUL PILLAR, A PROFESSOR OF SECURITY STUDIES AT WASHINGTON‘S GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:
”The ‘review’ was not a fundamental re-examination of policy toward Afghanistan but instead an occasion for reiterating a message aimed at shoring up support for the war.
”There are indeed some positive results in areas where NATO forces have concentrated their efforts, but they are more than offset by negative trends, including an overall increase in Taliban strength, in Afghanistan as a whole.
“The basic impediments to success in the counterinsurgency remain, including public resentment against foreign occupation and the lack of legitimacy for the Afghan government.”
ANDREW EXUM, SCHOLAR AT THE CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY IN WASHINGTON
”We are absolutely kicking the stuffing out of insurgent leaders in southern and eastern Afghanistan. My concern is that our tactical victories won’t be sustainable.
“When you talk about governance in Afghanistan and sanctuaries in Pakistan, both have the same effect: they allow the insurgency to regenerate.”
“There is a clear intent to start bringing troops home in 2011, but I think (the Obama administration is) very clear that the pace of that withdrawal has yet to be determined. There is still a lot of hard fighting to be done in the east.”
”The problem is not with the tactics, the problem is with the strategy, with the overall vision in this country and in the region.
“We need to focus on ... the roots of terrorism, which in many cases is not in Afghanistan.”
REPRESENTATIVE IKE SKELTON, CHAIRMAN OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
”I was very encouraged, though not surprised, to read about the tactical progress we’ve made under the new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
“However, the report leaves many questions unanswered with regard to the way ahead. There is no clear outline of how our progress in the region can become sustainable, or how the Afghan government and security forces can prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from re-establishing safe havens in the long term.”
RIFFAT HUSSAIN, PROFESSOR OF SECURITY STUDIES AT QUAD-E-AZAM UNIVERSITY IN ISLAMABAD
”The review says al Qaeda on the Pakistani side is much weaker, but the al Qaeda-affiliated groups like the Haqqani Network and their local supporters are a big worry. ... I think the Americans now are telling the Pakistanis that look, you should not give them the space to regroup and emerge as a much-stronger challenge. We have weakened them; let’s continue to press them and finish the job.
“The Pakistanis will tell the Americans: OK, we will not let this in any way undermine the cooperation we have with you, but on this (we will) agree to disagree. ... My sense is that Pakistanis are not thinking of launching a ground offensive any time soon.”
NORINE MACDONALD, PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT, A POLICY RESEARCH GROUP
”It ... is primarily for U.S. domestic political consumption.
”This short document itself concedes that what gains we see can be counted as fragile and reversible.
“Here we are with gains being noted for the first time because of the troop surge and the next thing said is that troops should start coming out in six months.”
VANDA FELBAB-BROWN, FOREIGN POLICY FELLOW AT THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
”Buried in the summary is the acknowledgment of two significant challenges for the stabilization effort: the continuing Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and the poor quality of governance in Afghanistan.
“The poor governance and corruption in Afghanistan has escaped effective management by the international community. Aggressive pressure on President Karzai has alienated him from the international community without making him deliver on improved governance. In a sense, we are in the worst possible of worlds with Karzai.”
KAMRAN BOKHARI, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR MIDDLE EAST AND SOUTH ASIA WITH GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE FIRM STRATFOR
”Those of us who have been observing this very closely have long been saying the key to Afghanistan lies in Pakistan because if you’re going to undermine the momentum of the Taliban on the battlefield, then you need help and assistance from the Pakistanis. ... If you’re going to negotiate with the Taliban, then again, you need that intelligence from the Pakistanis.
“I just don’t see what kind of further pressure the Americans can place on the Pakistanis. It’s sort of a risky thing. On one hand, you’ve got to get more cooperation from the Pakistanis. But on the other hand, you don’t want to apply too much pressure that leads to tensions with the Pakistan that undermine the whole strategy.”