“This is a strategic moment,” National Security Adviser James Jones said on CNN’s State of the Union.
In March, the president announced a plan to send additional troops to the country in order to provide security for a national election and to begin to lay the groundwork for a larger footprint for the U.S. military operation in the country. The Afghan effort, many military observers believe, was under-resourced during the Bush administration because of the focus on the war in Iraq.
Jones pointed out that since March three developments have led the White House to reconsider its overall Afghanistan strategy: the national election occurred where there are questions about the legitimacy of the outcome; General Stanley McChrystal was named the new top U.S. commander in the country and McChrystal has concluded that the Taliban is stronger than previously thought; across the border from Afghanistan, the Pakistani government is doing much better than anticipated, changing the overall dynamic in the Afghanistan-Pakistan regional theater.
Jones also said Sunday that he did not believe Afghanistan was in danger of falling back into the Taliban’s hands.
“I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban,” Jones told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “And I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger – imminent danger - of falling.”
“The key in Afghanistan,” Jones also told King, “is to have a triad of things happen simultaneously.” In addition to security, the country needs economic development and “good governance and the rule of law,” Jones said.
On the issue of “good governance,” Jones said, “We have a lot more work to do and the Karzai government is going to have to pitch in and do much better than they have.”
Echoing an approach championed by Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jones also said Sunday that building up Afghanistan’s own police and army forces “will be an important part of whatever we decide to do.”
Jones also said President Obama is receiving a variety of different views on Afghanistan from his top military, national security, and foreign policy advisers.
“We will be examining different options,” Jones told King, adding that McChrystal, CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will be willing to present different options and different scenarios to Obama.
“In the coming weeks, we will have vigorous debates. There will be alternative views presented and, I’m quite sure we’ll come up with the right solution.”
The president is currently in the midst of an involved, overall strategic review of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan. Some in the president’s inner circle, like Vice President Biden, are advocating for a counterterrorism approach that focuses on combating al Qaeda through the use of drones and special forces and would not involve the addition of more troops. Others, especially Gen. McChrystal, are advocating a broader counterinsurgency approach that would require a much larger U.S. military footprint in the country.