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The Road Ahead in Afghanistan

As the war in Iraq appears to wind down, U.S. strategists are zeroing in on the "good war" (Stratfor), as the seven-year struggle for Afghanistan has been called. President-elect Barack Obama campaigned on plans to end the war in Iraq and bring U.S. more resources to this second front, a pledge he has continued post-election. "We will start executing a plan that draws down our troops" in Iraq as soon as the new administration takes office, Obama said in a November 16 interview with "60 Minutes" on CBS. Referring to problems in Afghanistan, Obama said: "We've got to shore up those efforts."

Yet injecting troops alone will not solve the Afghan puzzle, experts say. In a new interview with, New York University's Barnett R. Rubin urges greater efforts to spur a political solution among Afghan's warring sides, and his call for a more regional approach appears to be under consideration by the incoming Obama administration.According to the Washington Post, Obama's plan could see the United States turn to neighbors like Iran for assistance, and negotiate with elements of the Taliban. Efforts are also underway to work with Afghan tribes to loosen the Taliban's grip on rural reaches of the country, especially in the east and southeast, as this new Backgrounder explains. But Afghanistan's neighbors are also seen as impediments to progress. Iran, for one, has been accused of supporting proxy attacks (Guardian) against coalition soldiers (though the level of Iranian involvement is unclear). In Pakistan, Taliban and al-Qaeda elements are regrouping and gaining strength, CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on November 13. And attacks against coalition forces in northeast Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan have surged in...

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