Michael Crowley was underwhelmed by the press conference:
Everyone present agreed there had been tangible improvements on the ground. Military progress since late summer, Gates said, is "palpable" and "has exceeded my expectations." Yet no one noted the obvious caveat, which is that after a 40% increase in ground troops over the past year, anything less would be a massive failure. And although U.S. officials believe that the war cannot be won just militarily, but will also require some kind of political reconciliation, there was no specific update in either the briefing or the review about the progress of reported fitful negotiations with Taliban leaders.
There's no way forward without Pakistan's commitment and considerable doubt if they can handle it. One "senior US official" told Ignatius that the Pakistanis,
despite their perennial jitters about India, now have 140,000 troops in the northwest border area, more than the United States has in Afghanistan. "They are extended at this point as far as they can be," he says.
The U.S. military official, standing at his map, says Washington should realize that the Pakistanis "are unable to conduct significant new operations without additional troops. That's not a criticism, it's a reality." This official notes that the Pakistani military has lost 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers fighting the extremists, with three to four times that many wounded. Civilian casualties are in the tens of thousands. If America experienced this level of casualties, he says, "we would probably call it a second American Civil War."
We have done about as much as we can alone. We need to invade Pakistan to do the rest. Which would be, to say the least, counter-productive.
(Photo: President Barack Obama speaks about the US strategy for military and civilian operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan following a two-month review process of the nine-year war, in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on December 16, 2010. Alongside Obama are: (L-R) US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; US Vice President Joe Biden; Obama; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Marine Corps General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)