June 4, 2010 | Op-ed

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater: Militant Islam, Security & Stability

What is the optimal strategy for the United States and its allies to pursue in Afghanistan? Observers across the political spectrum agree that military operations alone are not enough to secure Afghanistan against a powerful insurgency linked to global jihadism. There is increasing consensus as well that Pakistan – a refuge for important al-Qaeda figures, and also under attack by insurgents who identify themselves as Taliban – is deeply involved in this conflict.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater: Militant Islam, Security and Stability explores vital aspects of the situation the U.S. confronts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This collection represents a diversity of political perspectives and policy prescriptions. Nobody believes that the way forward will be easy; there is a pressing need for clear thinking and informed decisions. Contributors include Hassan Abbas, C. Christine Fair, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Vanessa Gezari, Sebastian Gorka, Shuja Nawaz, and  Joshua T. White.

From Editor Daveed Gartenstein-Ross:

Military operations in Afghanistan have heated up throughout 2010, and are about to enter a key phase. The major operations in Kandahar that coalition forces are about to launch will largely determine momentum well into next year. Since the first of the additional forces deployed as part of President Obama's “troop surge” will begin withdrawing next year, it is no exaggeration to think the next several months may determine the overall success of the U.S.'s new strategy. There has never been a more important time for clear thinking about the U.S.'s role in the region.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater: Militant Islam, Security and Stability is largely an outgrowth of a Leading Thinkers policy workshop on Afghanistan and Pakistan hosted last year by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). This workshop brought together an impressive array of thinkers representing truly diverse perspectives, including leading academics, military strategists, former intelligence operatives, members of the media, and the ambassadors of Afghanistan and Pakistan. All contributors to this volume attended this conference.

This book is designed to explore vital aspects of the situation the U.S. confronts in the theater. Contributions include Dr. Hassan Abbas's analysis of the “peace deals” that Pakistan's government entered into with religious militants in Waziristan from 2004-2008, thus helping al-Qaeda gain a foothold; C. Christine Fair's discussion of the implications that Afghanistan's flawed 2009 presidential election will have for the insurgency; and Vanda Felbab-Brown's examination the drug-conflict nexus in South Asia.

This volume represents a part of FDD's broader objectives, to illuminate global security issues with a nonpartisan and practical approach, uniquely combining policy research, counterterrorism and democratic education, strategic communications, and investigative journalism.


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