The soldier-scholar General Petraeus is launching a major reassessment of U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the surrounding region, the result of which will be a new campaign plan for the Middle East and Central Asia.
Two major themes have emerged from some of the initial brainstorming:
1. A Government-led reconciliation of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan,
2. Leveraging diplomatic and economic initiatives with nearby countries that are influential in the war.
In appearances this month in Washington, however, Petraeus has sought to manage expectations of any repeat of the Iraq performance in Afghanistan – often suggested by Republican presidential candidate John McCain – stressing that Afghanistan is not Iraq, and that while some concepts are “transplantable,” Afghanistan has daunting challenges likely to require a far lengthier effort.
As befits a soldier-scholar Petraeus is now recruiting a brain trust of advisers, to join his Joint Strategic Assessment Team – led by a longtime adviser, Col. H.R. McMaster. Experts will be handpicked from State Department, Pentagon and other civilian and military officials as well as from outside. To begin with the 100 people, will be split into six subregional teams, tasked with investigating the root causes of insecurity in the region with the goal of finding solutions that integrate military action, diplomacy and development work. Experts currently touted to join the assessments group include: Shuja Nawaz, Ahmed Rashid, and Clare Lockhart.