The emerging outlines of President Barack Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more U.S. efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.
The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and al-Qaida. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said.
A strategic review nearing completion is being carried out by a team of high-ranking administration officials whose recommendations will be subject to Obama’s approval. After seven years of a U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan, officials involved in the review say that the military to date has succeeded primarily in driving the most hard-core Taliban and other extremist militants out of Afghanistan and into western Pakistan, including the mountainous tribal areas and the city of Quetta.
To put more pressure on those Pakistani sanctuaries, U.S. and Pakistani officials said they expected the plan to recommend at least a continuation of what amounts to a covert war carried out by the CIA inside Pakistan, using drone aircraft for missile strikes on insurgent hide-outs.
The plan will also call for an increase in military and financial aid to Pakistan, though there was still a debate on just how much additional aid should be provided, the officials said.
One senior Obama official said the military aid to Pakistan would be aimed at trying to get its army to focus more on counterinsurgency and less on its long-running feud with India.
Administration officials said Obama would probably announce his finding late next week or the week after, in advance of an international conference on Afghanistan that is scheduled for the end of the month in The Hague. Drafts of the final strategy are expected to be reviewed by a Cabinet-level panel of Obama’s national security team next week. A senior Pentagon official said the review would set out specific goals over the next three to five years.