Anatol Lieven on America’s Strategic Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan

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For those who missed it, New America Foundation Senior Fellow Anatol Lieven‘s column in yesterday’s Financial Times is an excellent summary of the United States’ strategic challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Among Lieven’s most important insights is that a democratic Pakistan simply cannot give the United States the kind of support that it wants against the Taliban.
To continue to push and push and to send more and more aid will not fix the underlying problem that the vast majority of Pakistanis are opposed to this kind of mission.
Second, Lieven points out that an effective exit strategy must involve engaging regional stakeholders – like Iran – who share our interest in a stable Afghanistan and possess the will and capacity to help mange the ongoing conflict within that country that will likely persist for years to come.
Finally, Lieven reminds us that the United States’ most important long-term strategic interests lie in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. This means that rather than trying to figure out how to get Pakistan to help us fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, we need to make sure that our efforts in Afghanistan do not undermine our long-term interests in Pakistan.
— Ben Katcher


5 comments on “Anatol Lieven on America’s Strategic Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. hitcliff says:

    have never thought about it like that before. Thanks so much for the depth and understanding at which you covered the topic. it’s a useful piece of information not only for me but for many others. have read a lot on the topic at different blogs and magazines (download mainly from but this piece really gives food for thought


  2. TonyForesta says:

    What exacty are our strategic Af-pak objectives? What will define victory? Are we smoking jihadis’, liberating Aghan girls, establishing a democracy??? – or are we simply building bases and allotting troops and hardware to the region to control and distribute oil and energy out of the Caspian??? Every mission requires specific assets and applications, and what may be appropriate for smoking jihadis, may not work well for establishing a democracy. The Manichean paradoxes are primitive. Chaos, quantum magnitudes and impacts, and a wild slurry of unknown unknowns permeates the battlespace. The American taxpayer is burdened with the monsterous debt and deficits, and lost wealth, and wages, and entitlements, the lost blood, and the feable tattered threads of what is left of an American safetynet are gone entirely or difficult, if not impossible to acquire. Socialist Europe, Latin America, and other regions in the world whose citizens enjoy much more generous and stalwart safetynets, – where workers and the poor are treated like human beings with basic unalienable rights, will weather this tumult and economic storm, while many American poor and middle class will pay a terrible price for America’s excesses, abuses, deceptions, and wanton greed – and from the Obama government funnelling imponderable wealth, financed on the backs of America’s poor and middle class taxpayers into the offshore accounts of select financial oligarchs and casino capitalist titans.
    If it is not apparent, obvious and incontrovertibly certain that these select titans and oligarchs own and control the government, – the mechanisms, and mechanics of government agencies, applications, and operations – then there exists either ignorance, or complicity. Both trajectories are doome do to fail.
    What are we doing in Afghanistan, in Pakistan?
    What will define victory?
    How long?
    How much?
    Who profits?
    These are legitimate questions, and until the American people enter into this discussion, – our activities in the Af-pac netherreaches will be determined by a few select titans and oligarchs that do NOT have the American peoples best interest in mind or heart, and hold no respect or honor for either the rule of law, or the Constitution.


  3. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The truth is that the US smart power doctrine seems to have been predominated by the hard power doctrine strings that has actually complicated the US Af-pak policy.The utility/exigency of the soft power theory is the only way out to cure the Afghan-syndrome.The US policy of the drones’ attack in the Fata region is increasing the situation more complex and twisted.The Islamabad stance that the US should provide the drone technology to the Pakistani government is highly justifiable.The US policy of blame- game regarding the ISI’s liknage with the Taliban network is shattering the confidence in Pakistani military.The devious diplomatic tactics to be used by the US side to seek the Indian help by involving India in the US war on terror in Afghanistan by all means would subsequently complicate the matter.Focusing on the US exit strategy in Afghanistan( as has been rightly pointed out by the Canadian premier Stephens Harper)can be a viable US policy by fostering dialogue and development means in the Afghanistan- Fata regions.


  4. mirwais says:

    Keep defending the terror sponsoring entity of Pakistan: “Finally, Lieven reminds us that the United States’ most important long-term strategic interests lie in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.”
    Are you sure about that? Afghanistan was there 200 years before the colonial and artificial entity of Pakistan, which was imposed on the region in 1947.
    Pakistan is doomed irrespective of what the Pakistani lobby in Washington say.
    Anatol Lieven doesn’t understand the history of the region and listening to such individuals are very dangrous. If the strategic community in Washington is dominated by this thinking, then expect defeat in Afghanistan.
    Unfortunately it seems that some individuals haven’t learnt from the past seven years mistakes in Afghanistan, where a proverb says “you can’t carry two melons in one hand”, meaning you can’t have both Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s aint just possible.
    Stop supporting the terrorist generals of Pakistan, NOW!


  5. ... says:

    keep on dropping bombs from drones, killing who knows who and expect the opposite results… doesn’t make any sense, but that is the present usa foreign policy for ya…keep those military contracts rolling…


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