Petraeus strategy review to focus on reconciliation with moderate Taliban, economic initiatives
WASHINGTON, Oct 16 (APP): U.S. General David Petraeus, who will head Central Command from October 31, has launched a major reassessment of the regional strategy, warning that the lack of development and the spiraling violence in Afghanistan will probably make it “the longest campaign of the long war,” The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The review will formally begin next month, but experts and military officials involved said Petraeus is already focused on at least two major themes:
government-led reconciliation of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the leveraging of diplomatic and economic initiatives with nearby countries that are influential in the war.
“The effort in Afghanistan is going to be the longest campaign of the long war,” Petraeus told the newspaper Wednesday.
Petraeus is recruiting a brain trust of advisers, much as he did for Iraq, taking the studious approach that has become the hallmark of the four-star general who holds a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University.
Reconciliation of moderate Taliban insurgents who are willing to ally with the Afghan government is emerging as one main thrust of Petraeus’s approach, according to officials and experts who have discussed it with him recently.
“In Afghanistan, or in any country where society is dominated by tribes, reconciliation really needs to be a focus,” said a senior Central Command official.
Petraeus agreed but stressed that any outreach needs to be done in conjunction with the Afghan government. “I do think you have to talk to enemies,” he said at the Heritage Foundation. “Clearly you want to try to reconcile with as many as possible. . . . The key there is making sure all of that is done in complete coordination and with the complete support of the Afghan government and President [Hamid] Karzai.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan experts consulted so far include Shuja Nawaz, author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” whom Petraeus consulted during a private lunch in Washington last week, and Ahmed Rashid, author of “Descent into Chaos.”
Another expert slated to join the team is Clare Lockhart, co-founder of the New York-based Institute for State Effectiveness, who spent five years working in Afghanistan as an adviser to the United Nations, the Afghan government and the NATO-led military command. “This team will essentially provide a policy bridge from one administration to the next,” Lockhart said.
Another priority is to take a regional approach to the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including more robust diplomacy with neighbors and a regional economic development effort, experts said.
“When you look at a lot of these problems, you see considerable regional connections,” Petraeus said Wednesday. The effort would embrace all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and possibly extend to India, which has had a long-standing rivalry with Pakistan, the report said.”There may be opportunities with respect to India,” Petraeus said, according to the newspaper.
An overview of the review team’s mission obtained by The Post says that including other government agencies and other nations in the planning will “mitigate the risk of over-militarization of efforts and the development of short-term solutions to long-term problems.”
Nevertheless, some experts questioned whether Petraeus will have the authority to carry out such a sweeping strategy.