Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush administration national security leader, has come out with a sobering critique of the current war in Afghanistan. Off the bat, he discusses how the war has changed from one of necessity to know one of choice. Here’s Haass:

The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.

The first thing we need to recognize is that fighting this kind of war is in fact a choice, not a necessity. The United States went to war in October 2001 to oust the Taliban government, which had allowed Al Qaeda to operate freely out of Afghanistan and mount the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were routed; members of Al Qaeda were captured or killed, or escaped to Pakistan. But that was a very different war, a necessary one carried out in self-defense.

As one might expect, because Haass views the war as now one of choice not necessity, he offers up various policy/strategy changes for the situation. One needs to read the whole article (a little long, but highly worth it) to go through them all, but the one them that rides through them all is a United States taking on a lesser role than the current Obama administration strategy. Here is Haass’ blunt conclusion:

All this argues for reorienting U.S. Afghan policy toward decentralization—providing greater support for local leaders and establishing a new approach to the Taliban. The war the United States is now fighting in Afghanistan is not succeeding and is not worth waging in this way. The time has come to scale back U.S. objectives and sharply reduce U.S. involvement on the ground. Afghanistan is claiming too many American lives, requiring too much attention, and absorbing too many resources. The sooner we accept that Afghanistan is less a problem to be fixed than a situation to be managed, the better.

Haass is the latest from the right side of American politics to come out in favor of walking back the size of our commitment to Afghanistan. This political happening, the lurch of more on the right away from nation building in Afghanistan, is one on the move and to be watched just as close as President Obama’s liberal, anti-war base. To be continued….