The Afghan Study Group (ASG), composed of a bipartisan group of leading scholars and experts on Afghanistan, released a report yesterday stating that "the mission to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering". The report recommended the "decoupling" of Iraq and Afghanistan in both legislative and management processes, appointing a U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, and creating a group to develop a long-term, coherent international strategy for Afghanistan in coordination with the Afghan government."
ASG co-chairs Retired General James L. Jones and Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and to Jordan, testified in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday during which both Democrats and Republicans expressed frustration over the current situation in Afghanistan. Administration witnesses, including Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher and David Johnson head of the State Departmentís Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, tried to paint a rosier picture of Afghanistan. The Senators were not buying it.
Emphasizing the critical importance of increasing reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, Committee Chair Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) said "Weíve spent about as much in development aid in Afghanistan over the past five years as we spend on the war in Iraq every three weeks. What could more development aid do? As every military expert to testify before our committee has noted, the battle against the Taliban wonít be won with bullets and bombs. It will be won with roads, clinics, and schools."
While recognizing the need to address opium production, the report takes issue with the Administrationís policy on poppy eradication, stating that spraying herbicides "could prove extremely dangerous for Afghanistan."
Since the Afghanistan Study Groupís report was released Wednesday, two more reports have been issued by The Atlantic Council and international aid agency Oxfam both stating that international efforts are failing in stabilizing Afghanistan, the BBC reports.
Media Resources: BBC 01/31/08; New York Times 1/29/08