The Cat, the Tiger and Afghanistan/Pakistan Strategy

September 16, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Rory Stewart, the Afghanistan-war skeptic who heads the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, has one advantage over his fellow witnesses at this Senate panel: he’s better with quips. Stewart compares the Obama administration’s twinning of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy to a policy of dealing with “an angry cat and a tiger,” after Council on Foreign Relations’ Steve Biddle reiterated his argument that the U.S.’s interests in Afghanistan are primarily about Pakistan.

“We’re beating the cat,” Stewart said, “and when you say, ‘Why are you beating the cat?’ you say, ‘It’s a cat-tiger strategy.’ But you’re beating the cat because you don’t know what to do about the tiger.”

Stewart fears that surging troops is unsustainable. “A light footprint is a more sustainable footprint,” he said. He wants troops to focus on “a very narrow counterterrorism objective … and a humanitarian objective, contributing in a way we do in many other countries,” to a “stable, prosperous humane” Afghanistan.

*Update: Steve Biddle works for the Council on Foreign Relations. This post originally reported he works for Brookings. We regret the error. *

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