From Losing to Winning in Afghanistan - Michael O'Hanlon and Andrew Shearer, Washington Times opinion
... As Gen. Petraeus sets his sights now on the broader Central Command region, and US presidential candidates together with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates assert the need for more international forces in Afghanistan, it is becoming safe to assume that the international presence in Afghanistan will further strengthen over the coming months, perhaps from its current total of some 62,000 troops to 75,000 or more. There is talk, not surprisingly, of a "surge" for Afghanistan, and hope that we can soon accomplish there what has begun to take root in Iraq.
But we must avoid viewing the situation entirely in this light. Combined Iraqi and international forces numbered 600,000 or more personnel in the crucial months of the surge. In Afghanistan, the current figure is less than 200,000 and will grow only modestly in coming months - for a country even larger and more populous than Iraq. Afghanistan does not have the economic resources, or the historical track record of operating as a strong and cohesive polity, that Iraq enjoys. And for all the trouble Syria and Iran have caused in Iraq, by shipping in weaponry and tolerating the flow of al Qaeda fighters into the country, they have never represented the kind of sanctuary for main insurgent groups that Pakistan's tribal regions provide in regard to Afghanistan.
As such, it is difficult to spell out a convincing strategy for turning things around in Afghanistan. Almost surely, we will not find a silver bullet strategy as we did in Iraq; the first goal will be to arrest the deterioration of the situation, and only thereafter to turn the momentum in favor of the Afghan people and government as well as the international community. We need to do what is possible across four main fronts, and then hope that over time small positive developments within each strengthen and reinforce each...
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