U.S. Mission Depends on Afghan, Pakistani Governments

President Obama speaks on the Afghanistan review from the White House with Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton watching on, Dec. 16, 2010 CBS

CBS
There was never much doubt that a surge of 30,000 American troops would drive the Taliban out of its strongholds in Afghanistan. The troops have done exactly what they were supposed to do - although they still have a lot of fighting ahead of them - but whether they make a lasting or just a temporary difference depends on the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Will the Afghan government actually govern? And will the Pakistani government go after the terrorist safe havens in its border area? If the answer to either or both those questions is no, then soldiers and Marines could spend the rest of their careers chasing the Taliban around Afghanistan without ever achieving anything that looked like success.

The U.S. and its NATO allies are recruiting and training Afghan soldiers and police as fast as they can - even teaching them to read and write at a third grade level. The coalition of 49 countries has also set up civil service academies to train a new generation of government officials.

But you can't teach experience. It only comes with time - time for a green private to become a seasoned sergeant, time for a bureaucrat to learn the intricacies of planning and budgeting. The bar is low - General David Petraeus says the Afghans only have to be "good enough" for the Americans to leave - but the clock is ticking on political support at home.

As for Pakistan, the obstacles to cleaning out the safe havens are, to put it as nicely as possible, a challenge. The Pakistanis moved 140,000 troops to the border area and conducted several major operations against insurgent strongholds, but then the floods hit and all the military assets were diverted to humanitarian relief.

Beyond the floods lies a more fundamental problem - the Pakistanis just do not see the same enemy that we do. To them, the enemy is the Pakistani Taliban, the ones conducting terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. To us, the enemy is the Afghan Taliban and its fellow insurgents who are crossing into Afghanistan and killing American soldiers.

You can't blame the Pakistanis for going after their enemy first, but as long as insurgents are able to shuttle back and forth across the border, the Afghans will never get to "good enough."

Watch David Martin discuss the report and President Obama's remarks about it on CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged" below:


Obama: U.S. is "On Track" in Afghanistan
Afghan War Review Cements Withdrawal Plan
Clinton: Troops on the Ground Integral to Counterterrorism
CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan


David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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