This recommendation in one respect is a smokescreen. As we noted when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke in the same vein before Congressional committees last week, the US has always sought "regional stability" in Afghanistan, even if it hasn't done very well in achieving it.
Much more important, when you decode, are these demands in the recommendations. Continue the airstrikes in Pakistan, whatever the domestic political cost. Let others worry about Afghan "democracy" and the "economy", i.e., the US will concentrate on military efforts rather than nation-building.
And, Mr President, immediately approve our request in full for more troops to Afghanistan: one brigade already sent, three more in the next weeks, a fifth in the summer.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell wrapped all of this up in a lot of jargon for reporters yesterday:
There needs to be established a baseline of security. We need to reverse the trend that we are seeing in some parts of the country in terms of a deteriorating security situation. That is accepted as the foundation on whatever the president decides to develop in terms of a further strategy.
Meanwhile, the White House is countering the military by leaking its own evaluation. In an article in today's Washington Post, Administration officials set out a 60-day timeframe for a decision, tied to the 3 April NATO summit. And they are making that it is Obama who is the Decider, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of Defense Gates:
The president . . . wants to hear from the uniformed leadership and civilian advisers as to what the situation is and their thoughts as to the way forward. But he has also given pretty direct guidance.
Just in case you missed that signal, the article shouts it out later:
Officials described Obama's overall approach to what the administration calls "Af-Pak" as a refusal to be rushed, using words such as "rigor" and "restraint." "We know we're going to get [criticism] for taking our time," said a senior official.
And there is even a clear hint that Obama is not on the same page as the Gates-military emphasis on Pakistan as a safe haven for Afghan operations:
Senior administration officials described their approach to Pakistan -- as a major U.S. partner under serious threat of internal collapse -- as fundamentally different from the Bush administration's focus on the country as a Taliban and al-Qaeda "platform" for attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.