I have become a skeptic of the continued American involvement in Afghanistan. Like many skeptics of the policy, I am willing to be convinced to change my views. But unfortunately, most of the arguments in favor of an escalation of the conflict provide unconvincing strategic rationales. I believe that a compelling case for increasing our commitment must be able to provide convincing answers to these 10 questions.
(1) Why does the possibility that al Qaeda might establish a sanctuary in Afghanistan justify a multi-year commitment of American forces, while the reality of an al Qaeda sanctuary in Pakistan justifies nothing more than financial support to the Pakistani government and occasional Predator strikes?
(2) Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan inevitable without a significant American presence on the ground? Or might some other form of aid to the Karzai regime be sufficient to stave off that eventuality?
(3) What precisely is the nature of the risk a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan would pose to the stability of Pakistan? From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and yet by most indications, Pakistan was under less threat from Islamist radicals then than now. What has changed to make Afghanistan now the lynchpin on which the stability of Pakistan rests?
(4) The escalation of our commitment to Afghanistan is intimately connected to the acceptance of population-centric counter-insurgency theory popularized by General Petraeus in Iraq. How does this sort of campaign actually contribute to the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan? And if the goal is simply to dampen the insurgency to create space for a political process to occur, why is there any reason to assume that the Afghan government would be able to utilize this space more effectively than from early 2002 to early 2005 when there was only limited Taliban activity in the country?