Is U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Disintegrating?

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National Journal's Michael Hirsh says that US strategy in Afghanistan is coming apart so far that plans for gradual disengagement are likely to be upended. The Koran burnings, this weekend's atrocity, and the dysfunctional alliance with Pakistan have got the administration thinking about a quicker exit.

Though the official line is that the U.S. withdrawal timetable is unchanged, some U.S. officials have begun to talk about speeding it up--in part because there are also positive developments that might make a faster pullout more feasible... Obama and other U.S. officials proudly point to the near-decimation of al Qaida's upper ranks. Today, led by close teamwork between CIA Director David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, U.S. military resources are being directed toward covert "direct action" and special operations as never before.

Some Obama administration officials are also convinced that the Obama "surge" of 30,000 additional troops, scheduled to be wound down by September, has left just enough stability on the ground, or what Petraeus has called "Afghan good enough" in the crucial part of the country called "regional command east." ...

Today plans for the handover [to Afghan forces], which are to be fleshed out at the NATO Summit in Chicago in May, remain completely unresolved. And there is a growing acknowledgement by Washington that "Afghan good enough" is going to mean leaving behind a quagmire, no matter what.

Once the definition of "Afghan good enough" was been broadened to take in "quagmire no matter what", all that remains is to bring the soldiers home.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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