This article by Clare Lockhart on Slate lays out what seems to me to be the most cogent, reasonable and concise outline of what needs/needed to be done in Afghanistan, ever. She emphasizes good governance, sovereignty, aid to the local government and using their structures over building parallel UN/US/coalition/donor governance institutions, and for the love of god giving the Afghanistan government the money it needs to function, with accountability strings attached, AND with a focus on local governments. As a quasi-political scientist (my thesis is on ecology & food policy, so I've spent the last several whatever doing poli sci analysis of "food institutions") her approach rings true, and is not what I've heard from Obama.
Troops will be needed to protect an effort such as Ms. Lockhart refers to. But Obama has talked about Afghanistan as the real central front on terror -- and his plan to me sounds not like winning hearts and minds, or much-more-freaking-importantly, giving Afghanistan the aid and reparations it needs and DESERVES, but to turning it into, essentially, Iraq.
I can't wait to see him take up the Lockhart agenda -- or a similar one. I hope he presents one soon (and apologies if he has presented something like this somewhere in his policy proposals, though it is significant to me that this is not what we heard him propose during debates, where wanted to look hawkish). It is people like Lockhart that give me hope (or at least, what she wrote there in Slate that I've read, which focuses on respecting aided countries as co-equals and partners in re-building, not freaking supplicants; there's always the possibility that she's horrible and I don't yet know it). Let's hope we see many, many people like her in the policy arena in years to come.