Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Art of the Possible
July 13, 2011
On June 14, 2011, more than 200 policymakers and experts participated in an invitation-only, full-day working meeting at CSIS to discuss a constructive, realistic way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The main topics were Afghan governance, the Afghan security sector, and Pakistani cooperation. Informed in part by expert presentations on these topics, participants formed 17 simultaneous working groups asking: What accomplishments are essential? What are not essential? And what lasting gains can realistically be achieved?
What most participants felt was important is for the Obama administration to publicly identify what it believes to be the minimal essential requirements for Afghan stability and U.S. security and the minimal essential conditions on the ground that would enable those requirements to be met. By offering guidance on what accomplishments are essential, the administration would encourage activities on the ground to be prioritized more constructively. As a modest contribution to that guidance, this report provides the key observations and suggestions that emerged from the conference discussions, focusing mainly on those issues on which there was broad (though never unanimous) agreement among the convened experts and policymakers.