A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and other military leaders.
By ROBERT BURNS and PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writers
A senior defense official said Tuesday that it will likely take several weeks before the Obama administration rolls out its long-term strategy for Afghanistan.
The Joint Chiefs’ plan reflects growing worries that the U.S. military was taking on more than it could handle in Afghanistan by pursuing the Bush administration‘s broad goal of nurturing a thriving democratic government.
Instead, the plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials who confirmed the essence of the report. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan publicly.
The recommendations are broadly cast and provide limited detail, meant to help develop the overarching strategy for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region rather than propose a detailed military action plan.
During a press conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted the ongoing “comprehensive reviews” of Afghan policy, but did not say when they would be made public.
The assessments, Gibbs said, are critical for Obama’s intent to “evaluate the current direction of our policy and make some corrections as he goes forward.”
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would not comment Tuesday on the details of the Joint Chiefs’ report, but acknowledged that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is a critical component for success in Afghanistan.
“When you talk about Afghanistan, you can’t help but also recognize the fact that the border region with Pakistan is obviously a contributing factor to the stability and security of Afghanistan, and the work that Pakistan is doing to try to reduce and eliminate those safe havens, and the ability for people to move across that border that are engaged in hostile intentions,” Whitman said.