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America Cannot And Will Not Succeed In Afghanistan/Pakistan

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The Obama Administration has implemented a significant change in policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, which they view as a single challenge, AfPak. More troops and a new commander have been sent to Afghanistan, and the US has increased its level of support and aid to Pakistan. To many, this means we are becoming further entrenched in an open-ended quagmire where any military solution will ultimately fail. Others question whether we should care if Afghanistan has a strong central government or a democratic one. While most agree it should not become a terrorist haven, opinions differ on how this should be accomplished: more troops, covert operations, diplomacy? And what to make of Pakistan? We cannot allow its nuclear arsenal to fall into the hands of radicals, but President Obama has ruled out putting US troops on the ground. The task of rooting out al Qaeda and Taliban militants falls to Pakistan’s army, which has, until recently, supported these groups as a hedge against future conflict with India. How much tolerance does America have for the long road ahead with AfPak? Can we ever “win,” and how would we even define a win in this region?

The Debaters

For the motion

Steven Clemons

Directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation

Clemons directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, which aims to promote a new American internationalism that combines a... Read More

Patrick Lang

Retired Senior Officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets)

Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense... Read More

Ralph Peters

Retired Army Officer

Peters is a retired Army officer who rose from the enlisted ranks. As a soldier or civilian, he has experience in over 70 countries.Read More

Against the motion

James Shinn

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia in 2007-2008

Shinn was assistant secretary of defense for Asia in 2007-2008. Before the Pentagon he served as the national intelligence officer for East Asia in... Read More

John Nagl

President of the Center for a New American Security

Nagl is president of the Center for a New American Security and a visiting professor in the War Studies Department at Kings College of London. Nagl... Read More

Steve Coll

President and CEO of New America Foundation

Coll is president and CEO of New America Foundation, and a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine. Previously he spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Regardless of America’s ability to stem insurgency, Afghanistan’s tribal makeup, fraught with historical alliances and rivalries, inhibits the ability of a centralized body to govern the country’s arbitrary borders.
  • To ensure long-term political change in AfPak, the United States will need to commit extensive military and economic resources, which the American citizenry will not support.
  • Stabilizing Afghanistan is unlikely to substantially reduce the threat of Islamist groups as the terrorists will simply flee to Pakistan, which continues to harbor Taliban leadership, and other hospitable regions.  
Against The Motion
  • If America withdraws troops and support, AfPak will destabilize and the Taliban will return to power, thus establishing a safe-haven for terrorists and increasing threats to American security, guaranteeing the need for future intervention.
  • Because stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a global security priority, the United States has international support and should capitalize on the investments of other nations to secure lasting peace in the region.  
  • While corruption and weak leadership present real challenges, public opinion in Afghanistan and Pakistan has turned against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the U.S. should work to support this momentum.

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The Research

The Research

Curse of the Khyber Pass

Milton Bearden March 12
March 1, 2016

Pashtuns and Pakistanis

Reuel Marc Gerecht September 21
March 1, 2016

The Irresistible Illusion

Rory Stewart July 9
March 1, 2016
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