In June 2011, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment introduced by U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) that would provide $1 million for the establishment of an independent Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group. The blue-ribbon panel’s charge would be to assess U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and offer recommendations within 120 days.
Could an Afghanistan-Pakistan Commission actually accomplish anything? Although the popular perception is that commission reports achieve little beyond giving publicity to the graybeards that serve on them, my research on over 50 blue-ribbon panels shows that under the right circumstances they can catalyze important policy changes.
At first blush, an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group might seem pointless, since President Obama has already decided to implement a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But beyond the withdrawal of our surge forces much of our policy remains uncertain or undecided.
In particular, it remains unclear how large of a troop presence we will maintain in Afghanistan beyond 2012, how we will seek a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan and deal with the Taliban if they gain ground as we pull out, and, as relations with Pakistan remain tumultuous in the wake of the Bin Laden assassination, how the U.S. will craft a comprehensive, stable policy toward Islamabad that best serves national interests over the long term.