A Predator bombed a "militant" hideout just days ago, apparently with President Obama's approval; whether militants or civilians were killed is still an open question. But Obama should know that a military offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan is counterproductive, yet his commitment to 30,000 more troops there makes an offensive strategy more likely.
Look at this from an Afghan's point of view: currently we don't offer much to the Afghan people. We're attacking Afghans who they perceive as both scary and heroic defenders of their people, but only they seem to be able to provide security (rough and brutal as it is). Crime, corruption and the opium trade are as bad now in Afghanistan as they were during the civil war--except where the Taliban rules. The Taliban (now financing its war with drug money) was the only force that could impose civil peace in the nation in living memory. Any benefits we attempt to distribute or build, schools, for example, are destroyed by the Taliban.
What would "win" in Afghanistan would be a massive security effort, and then development programs, protected by the military; that would win "hearts and minds," whereas continuing the Predator bombing of militant hideouts, in which civilians are inevitably killed, wins hearts and minds for the Taliban and al Qaeda
Offense hasn't worked. Too many civilians are killed, and meanwhile the Taliban control 70% of the country, at least at night, because US/NATO forces, and the Karzai government, have been unable to provide basic security for the people. Security and development would have a better chance at winning over Afghans than aggressively going after militants. Winning over the Afghans is our primary goal, really: if Afghans are hostile, the militants win. However, security would have to be effective in order for development to work. Development would have to be massive. Benefits need to be tangible everywhere in the country.
The US should insure security in every province, not only patrolling, but training hundreds of thousands of Afghan police, and at the same time it should facilitate building wells, schools, roads, electrification and a cell telephone network, all of which would tie the country more firmly together.
The CIA's Predators and the bombing raids should be retired. All they do is increase support for both the Taliban and al Qaeda, while failing to wreak more than marginal damage on either group.
As for Pakistan, the same is true: it, and especially its FATA (northwest tribal area), desperately needs development. The US should also covertly support the government in its attempts to gain civilian control of the ISI (its intelligence agency). Pakistan's civilian PM, Zardari, tried early on but failed. Our military needs to lean on their military (the most westernized element in Pakistan) to support this effort. Once civilian control is established, support by ISI of militants in FATA, Afghanistan and Kashmir should be eliminated as a once effective but now counter-productive policy.
Obama could call for a massive Peace Corps project in Afghanistan (see:click here . That would provide the development workers and energy, but of course they would need to be protected by the military (NATO, US and Afghan).
All of this would cost money, but probably no more than the cost of an offensive war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Further, once the coalition forces were able to improve basic security, there would be elements within the Taliban that would be willing to negotiate: it's doubtful they'd be willing now; they're winning. Basic security and development would change the equation; some would want to be in on the action. They should be welcomed.