The Obama administration delivered its metrics for the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan to senators in a closed briefing on Capitol Hill today, and The Cable has the document.
The three-page paper, which is marked DRAFT but is unclassified, lays out the Obama team's priorities and also represents its response to congressional calls for more details on how the administration intends to measure progress in the region.
The draft document focuses on three main objectives: disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan, working to stabilize Pakistan, and working to achieve a host of political and civic goals in Afghanistan. Each objective has a list of metrics beneath it, although many of these are more goals than concrete milestones that could be measured in any factual way.
The metrics span just about every conceivable issue, including progress towards Pakistan's civilian government and judicial system becoming stable, to support for human rights, to public perceptions of security, to volume and value of narcotics.
Top administration officials met in the basement of the new Capitol Visitor Center Wednesday morning to introduce the document to senators and discuss the way forward, in the wake of growing unease among senior Democrats about doubling down on the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and set upon the backdrop of waning public support for the war.
Senate Armed Service Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), gave The Cable a readout of the briefing.
Their message is that we'll have access to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's assessment today or tomorrow, he said, noting that it would be classified. But the metrics themselves are not classified.
Any request for new troops, which has still been decided, will be coming in the next one to two weeks, Levin guessed.
Levin also downplayed comments yesterday by Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, who testified that more troops would probably be needed to properly resource the counter insurgency effort in Afghanistan.
The troop numbers are only one piece of a much larger set of policy adjustments, Levin said, including more trainers, more equipment, and more support for Afghan forces.
"The media has been focusing on [troop numbers] like it's the public option or something," said Levin. "It's going to be a much more comprehensive recommendation."
That recommendation will have to be vetted through the military chain of command and then make its way through the civilian leadership before the president makes the final decision, Levin added.
He lamented that the administration is not moving on parts of the request that everybody knows are coming and could be begun now, such as pressing NATO for more trainers and shifting equipment from Iraq.
"What's going on now?" asked Levin. "What I'm interested in is getting these known actions going. I'm not just going to sit around waiting for a decision by the president."
Briefing the senators was Michèle Flournoy, under secretary of defense for policy, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the NSC's war czar from the Bush administration, Richard Holbrooke advisor Paul Jones, Vice Adm. James Winnefeld from the Joint Staff, and South Asia analyst Peter Lavoy representing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The overarching goal of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan is "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future," the draft metrics document says.
But Fred Kagan, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has advised General McChrystal but was not speaking on his behalf, said in a talk last week that the Obama administration had made a mistake early on in putting too much rhetorical emphasis on al Qaeda. "The reason to be in Afghanistan is not to be fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan," he said. "This is a two-front war on both sides of the Durand Line."
Speaking in The Hague last Friday, General McChrystal told reporters, "I do not see indications of a large al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan now." But he added that al Qaeda commanders do retain their contacts with insurgents in the country.
This post has been updated.
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