Report Calls for Smaller, Sustainable US Presence in Afghanistan

President Obama intends to update the nation Thursday on the results of his year-long review of US Afghanistan strategy. Already the authors of a newly released Center for a New American Security study have cautioned against a rapid transition out of Afghanistan, arguing that such a move at this stage would be the equivalent of receiving an “incomplete” on a college midterm exam. The strategy may be a year old on paper, but the US began implementing some parts of it just three months ago, said retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, co-author of “Responsible Transition: Securing USb Interests in Afghanistan Beyond 2011,” during Tuesday’s report rollout event in Washington, D.C. Barno, senior CNAS fellow, and Andrew Exum, CNAS fellow, make the case that a long-term US commitment to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011 is vital. The authors suggest keeping a “sustainable presence of 25,000 to 35,000 troops” in theater to defeat Al Qaeda and help Afghan forces battle the Taliban. The US also should use “greater political, military and economic leverage over its allies in Pakistan,” they write. (CNAS report full text; caution, large file.)