The administration’s new policy on Afghanistan has a very narrow focus – counter-terrorism – and a very broad definition of how to achieve it: no less than the fixing of the Afghan state and defeating the Taliban insurgency. President Obama has presented this in a formal argument. The final goal in the region is ‘to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future’. A necessary condition of the defeat of al-Qaida is the defeat of the Taliban because ‘if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban, that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.’ He, therefore, proposes a counter-insurgency strategy, which includes the deployment of more troops ‘to take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east’ and a more comprehensive approach, which aims to ‘promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government . . . advance security, opportunity and justice . . . develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs. The fundamental problem with the strategy is that it is trying to do the impossible. It is highly unlikely that the US will be able either to build an effective, legitimate state or to defeat a Taliban insurgency. It needs to find another way of protecting the US against terrorist attack.


Stewart, Rory. "The Future in Afghanistan." Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, U.S. Senate, September 16, 2009.