WASHINGTON - President Obama is considering a new Afghan war strategy that calls for linking aid to Pakistan to its willingness to fight extremists and narrowing the U.S. mission in the region to preventing attacks on American soil from there, people familiar with the plan said.
The strategy will entail increasing the size of Afghan security forces and strengthening crop substitution to deny opium revenue to the Taliban, Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said Saturday.
The goals of Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, "were less defined, like pluralism, prosperity, or freedom," said Afghanistan's ambassador to the Unietd States, Said Jawad, who was briefed on the plan.
Obama seeks to change the course of the Afghan conflict, help Afghanistan and Pakistan become self-sufficient in stanching extremism, and provide some hope that the U.S. military commitment there will eventually end.
"Making sure that al-Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies" is the "number one priority" in Afghanistan, Obama told the CBS News program 60 Minutes in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Last month Obama ordered an additional 17,000 U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan this year to stem growing numbers of attacks by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
NATO troops killed a senior Taliban commander and nine other militants in southern Afghanistan, officials said yesterday, striking a blow in the group's heartland.
Maulawi Hassan and his associates were killed Saturday in an allied attack on a compound in Helmand province, NATO said in a statement.
The draft Afghan plan, which draws on months of analysis by military and civilian officials, was described by an administration official involved in the review and other officials who were consulted. They asked not to be named because Obama had not yet approved the strategy.
In a speech to a German Marshall Fund conference in Brussels, Belgium, Holbrooke said the new strategy would include a "major effort" to boost the size and quality of the Afghan police force, which he called "riddled with corruption."
U.S. analysts have advised increasing the size of the Afghan army to 250,000 troops from fewer than 90,000, and the police to 140,000 from fewer than 80,000, said Ken Katzman, senior Afghan specialist at the Congressional Research Service.
Previewing the new strategy, Holbrooke said the United States favored greater investment in agriculture to wean Afghanistan away from the opium poppy production that finances the Taliban insurgency. Opium is the raw ingredient in heroin.
Holbrooke also stressed the need to eliminate havens for extremists in the border region. "You can't succeed in Afghanistan if you don't solve the problem of western Pakistan," he said.
The draft also raises the idea of negotiating with elements of the Taliban who are not ideologically committed to the struggle against the United States, NATO, and the elected government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The draft plan suggests increasing U.S. nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan, especially for job creation aimed at those drawn to extremist action for money.
It would also condition military help on measurable cooperation against extremists in the border province of Baluchistan and the federally administered tribal areas, where the Taliban has regrouped.
Legislation introduced last year by Vice President Biden when he was a senator called for tripling nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, to $7.5 billion over five years, while tying military aid to cracking down on extremists. It was cosponsored in the Senate by Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is now secretary of state.
A bomber blew himself up
late yesterday at a police station in Islamabad housing the country's terrorism intelligence offices, killing himself and one officer.
The blast on Pakistan's national day was the first bombing in the capital since September, when more than 50 people were killed in a suicide truck- bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel.
The man detonated explosives at the gate
of the police station in the center of the capital, Interior Ministry Secretary Kamal Shah said. He said an officer who was apparently challenging the bomber died in the blast.
The station houses offices of the Special Branch, which is responsible for intelligence-gathering on terrorism, sectarianism, and political activities