Program Note: Tune in to hear more from Christiane Amanpour on the challenges facing President Obama tonight on an AC360° special, "Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 days," at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/20/afghan.airstrike/art.graves.afp.gi.jpg caption="Villagers sit near the graves of victims of airstrikes in Garni, in western Farah province in Afghanistan."]
CNN Chief International Correspondent
President Obama’s biggest challenge will be Afghanistan and Pakistan. He wants to beat back the militants, but all the U.S. commanders and officers I have talked to say that cannot be done by bombs and bullets alone. It must happen in tandem with development and promise of a decent life for ordinary Afghans. The most recent Gallup poll from Afghanistan shows people put their economic woes above all others, including security.
The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan must find a way to battle militants without causing the massive civilian casualties that are dangerously draining support for the U.S. mission and the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The latest poll shows only 1 percent support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. The U.S. needs to take advantage of that low figure and win hearts and minds.
Across the border, one possible positive side-effect of Pakistan’s offensive against the Taliban and other militant groups, is that it keeps them from pouring over into Afghanistan.
I wish I could persuade others of the vital necessity of nation-building. For some inexplicable reason most American journalists and politicians consider it a dirty word. And yet, wherever you look, successful counterinsurgencies come with successful development strategies.
Take Colombia, the big-bad insurgent narco-state of Latin America. It has practically been transformed over the past few years, by a two-pronged strategy of fighting and clearing the FARC anti-government rebels, followed by building roads, schools, and providing health care for the population. To get rid of the cocaine, they did not just tear up the coca bushes and leave, they provided alternative crops. In other words, the government is trying to provide the people with an alternative economy.
People complain that the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for eight years with little to show. The truth is the U.S. effort has been haphazard and incoherent during most of that time. It is now time to get serious, knowing that a stable and secure Afghanistan in the middle of that volatile region is vital.
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