Washington, Jan.30 : A study undertaken by former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Pickering, and retired Marine Corps General, James Jones, has warned that war-ravaged Afghanistan is close to becoming a failed state. Appealing to the Bush Administration not to ignore the evolving situation in Afghanistan at the cost of the ongoing American military operation in Iraq, both Pickering and Jones claim that dwindling international support and a growing violent insurgency is pushing Afghanistan to the brink.
In their study, which has been accessed by a foreign news agency and picked up by the media worldwide, both Pickering and Jones go on further to say that the Bush Administration should not ignore the rising violence in Afghanistan or the fact that al Qaeda is using that landlocked area to re-energize and regenerate itself as a telling terror force.
"Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country," warns the joint study.
Both Pickering and Jones say that it will be next to impossible to win the war in Afghanistan with fewer troops and insufficient economic aid.
The study calls for an increase in NATO force levels and military equipment in Afghanistan, decouple U.S. management of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, establish a special envoy to coordinate all U.S. policy on Afghanistan, and champion a unified strategy among partner nations to stabilize the country in five years.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is also on record as saying that more troops are needed in Afghanistan, but adds that it does not necessarily have to be American troops.
He believes that the actual NATO troop presence in Afghanistan has to be determined by the commanders on the ground.
The Jones-Pickering assessment is slated for public release today, and the sum total of its conclusions is that Washington should rethink its military and economic strategy in Afghanistan.
The study was a voluntary effort coordinated by the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a non-partisan organization in Washington. Apart from Pickering and Jones, the other panel members include Charles Robb, a former Democratic senator who served on the Iraq Study Group, and David Abshire, who helped organize the Iraq study.
Meanwhile, the U.S.Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to be briefed Wednesday on Afghanistan by intelligence officials.
The panel will convene an open hearing on Thursday, which is expected to feature testimony from Jones and Pickering. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, is also expected to testify before the committee on current developments in Asia.