Target goals in Afghanistan

A major decision on Afghanistan looms for Obama and America.

Eight years, hundreds of billions of dollars and almost 1,000 of our soldiers dead, there is still no end in sight for the war in Afghanistan. The request of our top commanders there? At least 40,000 additional troops. This weekâÄôs biggest challenge for President Barack Obama is to do what should have been done at the outset with Afghanistan: to imagine and articulate what a favorable outcome there might look like. He will also decide on an increase in troop levels, knowing that for each soldier we send over, an estimated price tag of $1 million per year is attached. While a surge seems to have proven effective in Iraq, the Afghanistan endgame is different. Combat there has been futile. The United States has installed a government and overseen democratic elections, albeit disputed ones. We need to focus on transitioning the care of Afghanistan into the hands of that government and its military and work on getting our troops home. The lesser of two troop increases currently on the table, 10,000-15,000 additional troops, is the better option. More importantly, the mission in Afghanistan must be clearly and sweepingly defined as reinforcing Afghan self-governance and infrastructure with an eye to U.S. withdrawal. New troops should be primarily engaged with training of local forces. Furthermore, Obama should renew efforts to collaborate with the international community in efforts to stabilize the Afghan government, ensure accountability and weed out corruption. There has never been an easy answer for Afghanistan, but it is clear now that what answer there is must come from the Afghani people. Our role now is to empower them to find it.