Smaller and Smarter: Defining a Narrower U.S. Counterterrorism Mission in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Region — Newlines Institute

The United States needs to center cooperation, coherence, and compassion in a narrower strategy for handling the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On Jan. 20, with only 2,500 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan, the Biden administration inherited a delicate peace process with the Afghan Taliban and an uncertain path to a complete cease fire and intra-Afghan talks. In addition, it will also have to contend with a multitude of other security threats in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region that continue to evolve with the changing dynamics of the region. As the president has himself argued, it is imperative to set narrower, more reasonable objectives to effectively manage these threats. To clearly define these objectives, the new administration must connect recent developments in the militant landscape and the counterterrorism capacities of regional states to broader priorities of great power competition. A smaller but smarter U.S. presence in the AfPak region should be guided by principles of cooperation, coherence, and compassion, drawing on positive inducements rather than punitive actions to align multi-party incentives.

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Abdul Sayed

Abdul Sayed

I am a research analyst focusing on jihadism, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.