The South Asia Channel

3B or not 3B

By Steve Coll My thoughts on the White House’s new draft metrics for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan are up over at Think Tank. The Obama Administration’s draft metrics for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which circulated publicly this week, offer the most precise articulation of the Administration’s goals and thinking about the war since ...

By Steve Coll

My thoughts on the White House’s new draft metrics for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan are up over at Think Tank.

The Obama Administration’s draft metrics for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which circulated publicly this week, offer the most precise articulation of the Administration’s goals and thinking about the war since its Afghan strategy was formally announced in the spring. The purpose of the metrics is "to highlight both positive and negative trends and issues that may call for policy adjustments over time." Rather than troops-or-no-troops, stay-or-leave, the metrics provide the nuanced vernacular in which policy will actually be debated, decided, and funded.

The metrics are divided into three "objectives." No. 1 is the least controversial: "Disrupt terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks." No. 2 concerns Pakistan; it is divided into three subparts, a through c. None of the listed goals is controversial — they amount to the pursuit of a stable Pakistan.

Objective No. 3 is the difficult one; it concerns Afghanistan per se. This objective, too, is divided into three parts. Subpart a is generally uncontroversial, involving the development of Afghan security forces that can take the lead in the war and allow U.S. and international forces to move out of direct combat. Subpart c is also uncontroversial; it involves international diplomacy to support Afghan stability.

Here, however, is objective 3b: "Promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support." There is some carefully modest language in that sentence; nonetheless, it crosses into the realm of nation-building, including the construction of political legitimacy for an Afghan government that is accused of having just tried to steal a national election. Metrics used to judge this objective would include "institutions at the national, provincial and local level, including ability to hold credible elections in 2009 and 2010"; we already know what that report card looks like. Other indicators include the "volume and value of narcotics," "demonstrable action by the government against corruption, resulting in increased trust and confidence of the Afghan public," "support for human rights," and "economic stability and development with emphasis on agriculture."

Read the rest over at Think Tank.

Steve Coll is the president of the New America Foundation and a staff writer at the New Yorker.

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