A new paper from the Center for a New American Security offers interesting advice on what the US should do in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the next 12 months. Here is the punchline:
In Afghanistan, we recommend that protecting the population take precedence over all other considerations for the time being. At the same time, however, any “civilian surge” must be used to increase the legitimacy of the Afghan government in the eyes of the Afghan population. In Pakistan, meanwhile, the U.S. government should place a moratorium on drone strikes on non-al Qaeda targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Northwest Frontier Province until such strikes can be incorporated into a coherent strategy for separating the population of these areas from al Qaeda. And the United States should refocus its train and equip mission in Pakistan to place a greater emphasis on the police – the only Pakistani security service focused entirely on domestic security.
Solid ideas. It's very difficult to imagine, though, that much progress can be made on these in the next year (with the exception of stopping the drone attacks). Basically the authors are talking about building new states in both countries, which does not happen overnight. But one does have to start somewhere, and these suggestions are consistent with the existing counter-insurgency literature and might work if (and it's a big if) a consistent effort was sustained by the US and its allies for many years.