In the Arena

Afghan Hint at the Pentagon?

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The Secretary of Defense had this to say yesterday about the future of our efforts in Afghanistan:

I think one of the — one of the points where I suspect both administrations come to the same conclusion is that the goals we did have for Afghanistan are too broad and too far into the future, are too future-oriented, and that we need more concrete goals that can be achieved realistically within three to five years in terms of reestablishing control in certain areas, providing security for the population, going after alQaeda, preventing the reestablishment of terrorism, better performance in terms of delivery of services to the people, some very concrete things. 

This seems, at the very least and despite the Secretary’s effort to cloak it otherwise, a significant shift in tone from the Bush Administration where “the goal was always freedom and democracy,” according to one defense expert. It may even be the beginnings of a new, more modest–and precise–set of goals for the Afghan operation.

No decisions have been made yet, and probably won’t be until David Petraeus finishes the Centcom policy review in mid-February. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the SecDef took the first step, from the Pentagon side, of redefining the amorphous Afghanistan mission.