The Compass

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The Plan

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As someone who's been critical of President Obama's approach to Afghanistan, I should say that one element of his plan, as reported by the New York Times, makes sense:

In imposing conditions on the Afghans and Pakistanis, Mr. Obama is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago both to justify a deeper American commitment and prod governments in the region to take more responsibility for quelling the insurgency and building lasting political institutions...

Although the administration is still developing the specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. In effect, Mr. Obama would be insisting that two fractured countries plagued by ancient tribal rivalries and modern geopolitical hostility find ways to work together and transform their societies.

At the end of the day, the U.S. cannot be more invested in the future of Afghanistan than the Afghan themselves.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias interprets the benchmarks as a means of getting out of Afghanistan if things go awry: "It’s important to have some policy offramps, some points at which we might conclude that we can’t achieve our biggest goals and need to radically scale back."

It's true that that's what we need, but here's the thing: what are they? This is supposed to be the centerpiece of the strategy, and it's not clear what they are. That doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Kaman helps secure an area along the Pech River during a meeting between key leaders in the Kunar province of Afghanistan on Feb. 4, 2007. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss local development projects that are a combined effort of the Coalition led Asadabad Provincial Reconstruction Team and local contractors. Kaman is attached to the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, Connecticut National Guard. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Gipe, U.S. Army. (Released)