Oliver North
WASHINGTON -- This week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Defense Department appropriations bill, which would set up an independent, nonpartisan Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group to provide recommendations for future U.S. military missions in the region. The measure, proposed by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., would establish a panel modeled on the 2006 Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton. It's something the Obama administration should have done -- as President George W. Bush did by executive order -- a long time ago. Let's hope it's not too late, because the U.S. "drawdown" from Afghanistan already has begun.

According to the legislation, the APSG would conduct a forward-looking assessment of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and deliver a report to Congress and the commander in chief within four months. Rep. Wolf -- full disclosure here: he's my congressman and a friend -- says, "We are 10 years into our nation's longest-running war, and the American people and their elected representatives do not have a clear sense of what we are aiming to achieve, why it is necessary and how far we are from attaining our goal."

He's right. But they may not be paying attention at the White House. The O-Team ignored Wolf's recommendations to establish an APSG for nearly a year. Instead, the administration has been conducting an internal-only "Afghan Strategy Review." The International Security Assistance Force's commander, Gen. David Petraeus, now in Washington for confirmation hearings to become CIA director, reportedly hand-carried his recommendations for the size and scope of troop reductions, including advice not to replace an 800-man unit slated to return home. Given current events, we should expect President Barack Obama to announce his overall plan for "downsizing" the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan in a matter of days, not months.

News reports from the region are sparse -- and rarely good. Afghanistan's neighbors -- Iran and Pakistan -- are becoming progressively problematic. Both countries are engaged in moving opium, heroin and morphine base out of Afghanistan to markets in Russia, Europe and even the U.S. The Iranians increasingly are involved in providing safe havens and logistical support to insurgents operating along Afghanistan's western border. And since the May 2 U.S. special operations raid that took out al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden, Pakistani officials have become spectacularly uncooperative. This week, Islamabad's security services arrested at least five of the local informants who helped gather intelligence on bin Laden's lair.


Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.