The July 2011 target President Obama set in 2009 for beginning to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan is fast approaching, and the president is in the process of changing the top civilian and military leadership prosecuting the war, both in country and at the Pentagon. Michael O’Hanlon offers perspective on the war and its progress in an interview with NPR.
NPR: What is the definition of success at this point?
Michael O’Hanlon: Success is an Afghan government that mostly on its own controls most of its territory. Let me put a period on that. It’s not all about security — there are political and economic things that play into it — but that’s the bottom line you’re looking for.
NPR: Can President Obama’s goals be achieved by 2014?
O’Hanlon: In terms of 2014, I think the chances are pretty darn good. It’s not a very high bar. I’m not presuming an end to corruption, or a much larger per capita GDP. Afghanistan post-2014 could look like Colombia in the 1990s, or Mexico today. It could have residual violence, but as long as it doesn’t involve terrorist groups using large parts of the country and as long as we don’t have to do much of the fighting, we can live with that outcome. That would already be big progress, and it’s probably enough. It’s not a sterling success, but it’s probably enough to prevent al Qaeda from attacking the United States.