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Liberal think tank wants Afghan timeline

From NBC's Ali Weinberg and Kelly Paice
President Obama
must "set a timeline" for foreign combat troop involvement, insist on sustained commitments from allied countries, and recalibrate the U.S.-Pakistani relationship in order to achieve results in Afghanistan, experts from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress said today.
 
In anticipation of Obama's prime time speech tomorrow, in which he will outline his new strategy in Afghanistan, CAP senior fellow Lawrence Korb said that the president should set a timeline for foreign troop withdrawal. "You can make it flexible but you need to have goals," Korb said. "If we do not do that, we're going to be seen like the British and the Soviets as occupiers." In regard to the increased troop numbers the president is expected to announce tomorrow, Korb predicted it would take around a year to get some 30,000 new troops deployed to the region.
 
Despite waning worldwide support for the Afghanistan war, Obama must also stress the "international nature of this mission," said Caroline Wadhams, a CAP national security analyst. "We should not be asked to bear the burden alone especially in the midst of our own economic crisis." Wadhams added that "security interests in Afghanistan don't just affect us but threaten the globe."
 
Senior Fellow Brian Katulis added that one of President Obama's challenges in tomorrow's speech is "to appeal to our allies in Europe."
 
Katulis added that the U.S. must expand its relationship with Pakistan, which he characterized currently as "we send them money and tell them to do things." He stressed a "broader contact with the Pakistani society" to avoid "having the Musharraf problem again," referring to former President George W. Bush's close ties with General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup before resigning last year.
 
The Washington Post reported today that "the political weakness of [Pakistan's current president Asif Ali] Zardari is an additional hazard for a bilateral relationship," as he is "disliked by the military and is challenged by the political opposition and his own prime minister."
 
While Katulis said he was "not sure how much [Obama] will speak publicly about it," including in tomorrow's speech, he said the president "will need to keep a focus" on Pakistan. Katulis pointed out key U.S. challenges in Pakistan including internal divisions among Pakistanis and the fact that U.S. leverage is not all that strong. He also stressed that there are worries among the Pakistani people regarding the risks of destabilizing Pakistan.
 
In his daily briefing today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that, in fact, "a good portion" of the president's address "will discuss the relationship with Pakistan," including "a renewed engagement diplomatically."