Washington, Oct 1 : Ahead of the Nov 4 US presidential poll, Pentagon is planning for a sea change in the strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, that would encompass expanding airfields, pre-positioning military forces and equipment, and preparing for a more robust effort soon against Islamist extremists along the Pak-Afghan border.
According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), on being frustrated over a lack of direction from the White House on Afghanistan, many US defense officials say it was high time a new way was developed and implemented before a new President occupies the White House. "The military sees this period as an opportunity to offer the next president an Afghanistan strategy less shaped by lofty democratic ideals and more by what Pentagon strategists believe can actually be achieved there," said the report.
The aim for now is to put the pieces in place so that a new strategy can be "turned on" as soon as possible. "The worst thing for us would be a gap in administrations, a period of indecision," says one senior military officer who spoke on background because the plans are still under development.
After seven years into the Afghan war, Bush too has directed a comprehensive review of US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has demanded an accelerated timetable for an assessment over the next few weeks, prompting some critics to wonder why the hurry now that the Bush administration is drawing to a close, said the CSM report.
The overall review of the situation is led by Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, considered as Bush's "war czar". General Lute's recommendations to the President will include views from Central Command, as well as the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and Gen. David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, defense officials say.
Those inside and outside the military who saw the Bush White House as too intently focused on Iraq, hope the next administration will put fresh eyes on Afghanistan. "Now there is more confidence that changing strategies can change outcomes. The US military has an opportunity to fundamentally rethink our Afghanistan strategy," says John Nagl, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington.