In fact, this will be short. But basic.
If one is looking for the right Afghanistan strategy... one has to realise there is NO SUCH THING in reality. I mean, there couldn't be. I mean: a strategy only for Afghanistan.
Because Afghanistan doesn't exist in a vacuum. Because there are all these other countries around it. Like, Pakistan for example. Which is why Obama et al. tried to come up with an AfPak strategy, as everybody remembers. That was a conceptually good start (which is not to say anything about the end result).
The way the discourse is usually formulated, as I see it, is like this:
- the bad guys would take Afghanistan if we left (partly true, depending on external assistance and its extent);
- to keep their friends out of there, we would need more troops (true - just as one would need other things as well);
- wow, man, but that costs a lot (true).
And the conclusion for now seems to be: let's send there some more troops (not as many as would really be needed) - and hope that there be a magic turn of events in 18 to 24 months.
But of course there are other considerations as well. The most basic thing, still confined to within the limitations of the discourse outlined above, is that the bad guys may be happy if their performance is perversely judged good enough to therefore let them take Afghanistan. In return, they might just keep on attacking, stay on the offensive.
Another basic consideration is that Russia and the Central Asian countries are needed to logistically support the presence and the operations of more troops in Afghanistan, to make it all sustainable there. Because Pakistan alone will not allow much more room for manoeuvre. In fact, there is more to this: the reason that many things that could be done for Afghanistan cannot be done in Pakistan, is that Pakistani cooperation is necessary indirectly for anything one wants to do in Afghanistan, and that cooperation may be endangered by any short-term-oriented measure taken for the sake of handling the insurgency in Afghanistan proper. So you could have the best Afghanistan strategy, it won't help you much if certain elements of it cannot be executed, lacking permission, lacking cooperation, or facing even sabotage. But let's focus not only on Pakistan. In dealing with Russia, a whole range of interests come up in any horse-trading. And trade-offs there may not be any more comfortable than with Pakistan (some of these feel so inappropriate or inconceivable they don't even come up). The only reason that thing is working now with Russia to an extent is that the Russians are not uninterested in the fight against the Taliban.
So for all those looking to discuss strategy, bringing in the issue of resources/objectives preferences is fine. But make the leap to discussing the wider regional context as well. You are not the centre of the world, we are not the centre of the world, they are not the centre of the world. Jackie Chan(s) v. Jackie Chan(s), as I pointed out in an earlier post.