News Release

Metrics in U.S. Afghanistan Policy

The New York Times reported Thursday that “the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a long-promised plan to measure whether the war [in Afghanistan] is being won. Those ‘metrics’ of success, demanded by Congress and eagerly awaited by the military, are seen as crucial if the president is to convince Capitol Hill and the country that his revamped strategy is working [and] to make the case for continuing the military effort or enlarging the American presence.”

Gould and Fitzgerald recently wrote the book Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story. They began covering Afghanistan in 1981 for CBS News when they produced the documentary “Afghanistan Between Three Worlds.” They said today: “Numerous military commanders have stated for years that Afghanistan cannot be won by military means alone. On September 10, 2008, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, warned Congress that the U.S. had to improve its nation-building skills and develop a strategy for dealing with the cross-border attacks from Pakistan.

“But with the U.S. relationship with Pakistan still locked in a cold war embrace that accedes to Pakistani demands at the expense of Afghanistan, establishing a metric for anything is useless without reassessing the underlying assumptions.

“Beginning in the 1970s, the U.S. war in Afghanistan was never about ‘winning’ for the Afghan people but about punishing Soviets, holding them there and eventually destroying any Afghan attempts to govern themselves. This policy played into Pakistan’s long-term geopolitical objectives of subjugating Afghanistan to establish ‘strategic depth’ in its ongoing war with India.

“But with Pakistan’s creation of the Taliban, America’s concept of ‘winning’ entered a complicated phase that continues to haunt American decision-making to its core.

“Pakistani intelligence knows full well the American political system, its history of compliance with their wishes and the lack of appreciation for Afghan independence. America’s war in Afghanistan is an ongoing bait and switch where the U.S. fights against its own interests and Pakistan plays the Beltway like a violin.

“The only metric that matters is how far Pakistan’s military has moved from supporting Islamic extremism. With the insider relationship the United States has with Pakistan’s military intelligence, that should not be a difficult metric to establish.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167