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White House's Report Card On Afghan War Also Focuses Heavily On Pakistan

Italian and U.S. soldiers inspect the site of a blast that struck vehicles with the NATO-led force in Kabul, killing at least 16 people.
(RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" the Al-Qaeda terrorist network in both countries, and to prevent it from ever returning there.

That objective now forms the framework for the way the White House will evaluate progress in the region.

Back in March, when he announced his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama said the United States would not "blindly stay the course." Instead, Obama said a clear system of measuring progress would be developed -- a kind of report card that also will hold officials accountable for corruption.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders," Obama said.

"Instead, we will seek a new compact with the Afghan government that cracks down on corrupt behavior and sets clear benchmarks -- clear metrics -- for international assistance so that it is used to provide for the needs of the Afghan people."

Obama also had said in March that developments in Afghanistan should not be viewed separately from the situation in neighboring Pakistan.

"Let me be clear. Al-Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that Al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan," Obama said at the time.

"And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban or allows Al-Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

Regional Report Card

On September 16, a draft of the White House's new methods for evaluating Afghanistan and Pakistan was released. It says that both "quantitative and qualitative" methods will be used to assess progress.

That means the new review system will rely on statistics to examine region-wide trends. But it also will draw upon stories from individuals in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help determine whether policy adjustments are needed.

One key aspect of the new evaluation method is that progress will no longer be measured against the situation in Afghanistan during 2001 under the Taliban regime. Instead, progress is to be measured against the common starting point of July 17, 2009.

That was the middle of the deadliest month to date for international forces in Afghanistan. The date also marks a point ahead of nationwide elections when many ordinary Afghans were complaining about corruption in their country.

Speaking on September 16 in Washington, Obama said a fresh evaluation must include a review of disputed presidential election results that show Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning reelection in the first round with more than 50 percent of the vote.

"General [Stanley] McChrystal has carried out his own assessment on the military strategy," Obama said. "But it is important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side -- that we analyze the results of the election and then make further decisions moving forward."

Measuring Progress

The new evaluation methods focus heavily on Pakistan, with calls for measuring the effectiveness of U.S. assistance on political, economic, and military developments.

It includes a way to monitor whether Pakistan's civilian government and judicial systems are stable and free of military involvement. It would measure whether U.S. assistance is helping to advance human rights and ensure economic stability, job creation, and growth in Pakistan.

It also would gauge public opinion in Pakistan about the performance of the government -- including the success of efforts to fight corruption.

Closer analysis of international efforts in Afghanistan also form part of Obama's new report card.

That means Washington will be measuring efforts to forge international consensus. It will grade the effectiveness of international security and development assistance in Afghanistan. And it will introduce accounting and management controls for the United Nations coordination effort.

It also will rate the ability of nongovernmental organizations to operate freely and independently in Afghanistan, and measure the status of relations between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad.