Washington: The US should consider narrowing down its military mission in Afghanistan unless the strategy begins to show signs of progress, according to a latest report.
"We are mindful of the real threat we face. But we are also aware of costs of the present strategy. We cannot accept these costs unless the strategy begins to show signs of progress," said the Independent Task Force, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in its report released on Friday.
The Task Force offers a qualified endorsement of the current US effort in Afghanistan, including plans to begin a conditions-based military drawdown in July 2011.
It said the upcoming December review should be "a clear-eyed assessment of whether there is sufficient overall progress to conclude that the strategy is working”.
If not, the report argues that "a more significant drawdown to a narrower military mission would be warranted”.
The independent report, titled `US Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,` precedes the Obama administration`s planned review of US policy in Afghanistan, due in December.
The Task Force led by former deputy secretary of state Richard L Armitage and former national security adviser Samuel R Berger notes that nine years into the Afghan war, the outcome of struggles in the region are still uncertain and stakes are high.
"What happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan matters to Americans," the report said warning that militants in the two countries pose a direct threat to US and its allies. They jeopardise the stability of Pakistan, a nuclear power that lives in an uneasy peace with its rival, India.
The report supports the US investment in a long-term partnership with Pakistan, but underscores that it is only sustainable if Pakistan takes action against all terrorist organisations based on its soil.
Concrete Pakistani actions against terror groups "are the bedrock requirements for US partnership and assistance over the long run”.
"In Pakistan, the US aims to degrade and defeat the terrorist groups that threaten US interests from its territory and to prevent turmoil that would imperil the Pakistani state and risk the security of Pakistan`s nuclear program," it said.
The report notes that these goals are best achieved through partnership with a stable Pakistani state, but that the challenge of fighting regional terrorist networks is compounded by the fact that Pakistan draws distinctions between such groups.
"As it cultivates a closer partnership with Islamabad, US still needs to seek a shift in Pakistani strategic calculations about use of militancy as a foreign policy tool.”
"Washington should continue to make clear to Islamabad that at a basic level, US partnership and assistance depend upon action against LeT, the Afghan Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, and related international terror groups," the report said.