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Provide Clarity of Purpose in Afghanistan

The presence of American troops in harm’s way has made the transfer of security responsibility the leading concern for U.S. policymakers.

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The Obama administration remains vague about what progress looks like in Afghanistan and what our objectives are over the next two to five years. While focusing on the Al Qaeda threat is understandable, this frame does not clarify our purpose or our strategy in Afghanistan, which requires greater focus on our counterterror campaign’s effects andan acknowledgement that the  country’s internal political stability will have an important impact on the broader region.

The process of defining progress has begun with talks in London, Estonia, Washington, and shortly Kabul. But the product of these conferences between NATO-ISAF partners and the Afghan government needs to be a clear end-state goal with a precise set of qualitative and quantitative metrics that attempt to measure our progress toward a sustainable Afghan state.

The presence of American troops in harm’s way has made the transfer of security responsibility the leading concern for U.S. policymakers, but dimensions of a transfer agreement need to be broader than just the status of an area’s security forces. It will take a sustainable, representative government to enable the United States and the rest of the international community to withdraw the majority of their military forces without unleashing terrible violence, regional instability, and  emboldened militant groups.

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