America’s strategic interest in Afghanistan and South Asia extends beyond the immediate denial of a safe haven for al-
Qaeda. In a wider context, strategic opportunities converge
in Afghanistan that could help to stabilize the region,
expand a lucrative market for U.S. investors and exporters,
help restore America’s credible influence in the Islamic
world, reduce narcotics production, and maintain an
environment nonconducive to extremism. Afghans
recognize the need to diminish corruption and criminal
activity (including the production and trafficking of
narcotics), while at the same time creating jobs, improving
the quality of life, and increasing literacy. And while they
realize they cannot do this without outside assistance, they
seek a sustainable path to self-sufficiency. Afghans not only
want to eventually take the lead in providing their own
security, they want an opportunity to sustain their own
prosperity rather than receiving direct support and
handouts that only perpetuate their vulnerability, poverty,
and dependence.