President Obama has requested detailed, province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan’s local and tribal leaders, hoping to find more effective partners than the country’s weak and corrupt central government. The administration has concluded that no surge in troops will be able to eradicate the Taliban as a political force, but they believe that some provincial leaders, including Taliban-affiliated ones without ties to al-Qaeda, may be trusted to run their provinces without international help.
The information will be used to help Obama decide how many more troops to grant Stanley McChrsytal. Robert Gates and James Jones are pushing McChrystal to specifically justify where he wants to send the 44,000 he has requested. “Some see it as an attempt by the White House to do due diligence,” says one senior military official. “A less charitable view is that it is a 5,000-mile screwdriver tinkering from Washington.”