Now that the November 7th run-off election in Afghanistan has been canceled and Hamid Karzai announced the official winner of the August 20th election, President Obama should end the uncertainty surrounding the future of U.S. engagement in the region and announce a strategy for moving forward in Afghanistan.
The ongoing public debate about Afghanistan has already cost the U.S. credibility with its NATO allies and is confusing our regional partners who are starting to hedge their bets and plan for a decreased U.S. commitment to the region. As well-known Pakistan expert Ahmed Rashid commented on October 27th in an article in the National Interest, “Every sign of the United States or NATO dithering over strategy only convinces the Pakistani military about keeping its Taliban option open.”
The U.S. and its international partners must prevail on President Karzai to do things differently in his second term, including taking immediate steps that demonstrate he is serious about reining in corruption. He also must distance himself from war lords and those associated with narco-trafficking and establish a cabinet of competent ministers who can work effectively with the U.S. and NATO in bringing development and reconstruction to the Afghan people.
The flawed election was a set-back to international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. However, the stakes for U.S. national security in the region are far too high to allow the imperfect elections to cause us to scale back the mission there.
Obama’s Afghan strategy should provide U.S. military commanders on the ground with the resources they need to fight a successful counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban. Depriving our commanders of the resources they require is a recipe for failure.
A return of Taliban rule to the country would establish Afghanistan as a base for international terrorists to pursue their destructive agenda, including destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan and conducting terrorist strikes across the globe.