Spencer Ackerman, who is liveblogging the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing for President-elect Obama's Pentagon subcabinet nominees today, flags a fascinating exchange between Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Michele Flournoy, Obama’s nominee to be undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon.
Webb asked Flournoy to lay out some kind of military strategy for Afghanistan, specifically “what the end point is [at which] we see the mission completed.” Flournoy responded that
That is the question, Senator. Our objective in Afghanistan has got to be to create a more stable and secure environment that allows longer-term stabilization to prevent Afghanistan from returning to a safe haven for terrorism. Job number one, or one of the top jobs of this administration is going to be crafting the strategy you're asking for, not just the military piece... but across the U.S. government as a whole, working with our NATO allies, working with the Afghan government, working with international donors... all elements of national power [should be] brought] to bear. I can't tell you what that strategy is yet. But both President-elect Obama, and Secretary Gates are committed to developing that as an early priority going forward.
Webb, in a reply that encapsulated the issue perfectly, shot back with:
I hope the process ends up with a clearly articulated endpoint. If you cannot clearly articulate when the commitment will be ended, then we tend to move in an ad-hoc way, staying in different places and not necessarily resolving problems in a way that fits our national interest.
Of course, expecting Flournoy—or anyone else for that matter—to delineate a clearly articulated and workable military strategy for such a complicated problem as Afghanistan is too much to ask this soon in the game for the Obama administration, but at some point someone is going to have to figure this one out.