The whole thing is out. I’m plowing through its uninspired “bureacratese” now. Initial impressions:
One, it takes for granted that we have to create something without historical precedent: a well-governed Afghanistan.
Two, it says we should forge better relationships with the people, but understates the details of that people: that it is fiercely tribal, Muslim, illiterate, and hostile to outsiders. In other words, it treats Afghans like every other group of people on Earth, when in fact this is a multinational country with unique local features that render any COIN strategy unlikely to succeed.
Three, it supports creation of a viable Afghan army as a central prong in the strategy, while ignoring the perrennially unviable Afghan state which it would serve, and the tribal factors that make that impediment unlikely to change anytime soon.
Four, other than the coincidence that Osama bin Laden is in the region, there’s no justification for this strategy in Afghanistan while we adopt a more remote, raid-based, “kinetic” strategy in places like Somalia and Yemen.
Finally, the report does not address an important strategic puzzle: the more effective we are in Afghanistan, the more we will drive al Qaeda into the ungoverned and unreachable hinterlands of Pakistan, where they will be able to organize, arm, and train anti-Western cadres, and where there is very little we can do about it. In other words, the report does not consider that it might be preferable for al Qaeda to assemble on Afghan turf rather than be dispersed or assemble on that of nuclear-armed Pakistan.
UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin notes that Obama’s talk of “working through” the Afghan strategy contradicts his own commitment to a basic nation-building strategy and his direction to McChrystal to prepare a troop recommendation on that basis back in April of this year. Now, there’s nothing wrong with re-thinking a strategy, particularly in war. But all of the structural problems with Afghanistan were self-evident, and should have been especially so to Obama, as that campaign’s problems are similar to those of our campaign in Iraq, which Obama criticized so forcefully for the last five years.