President Obama’s decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan is being portrayed as the most momentous of his young presidency. The specter of Vietnam hangs as a backdrop; the war on al Qaeda seems to hang in the balance. While the president and his national security team deliberate the options, it is important that the American public have an opportunity to weigh the calculations and considerations as well.
On October 16, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion of President Obama’s policy options for Afghanistan, drawing on experts with a diverse range of views. Panelists included Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment; Paul Pillar, visiting professor at Georgetown University and former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center; Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon, director of research for Foreign Policy and author of the forthcoming book, Toughing it Out in Afghanistan (Brookings, 2010); and Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, who chaired President Obama’s review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy that was completed in March 2009.
Martin Indyk, vice president and director of Foreign Policy, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.