Saturday, June 08, 2019


For many Americans, Afghanistan resembles a slow-motion train wreck—you could see the disaster coming from a mile away, yet you still find it hard to avert your eyes.

Despite spending over $740 billion—$132 billion in reconstruction assistance alone—Afghanistan remains mired in conflict. A day doesn't go by when some act of violence occurs, whether it's a Taliban ambush against an Afghan army checkpoint or an airstrike that goes tragically wrong. The country's politicians are often as consumed with infighting, score-settling, and personal grievance as they are in delivering for the Afghan people.

Afghanistan is still one of the most corrupt places on the planet, notwithstanding the anti-corruption and rule of law initiatives designed and financed by the United States. Kabul's health sector, severely impacted by the strains of war and a lack of donor support, is badly underfunded and under-delivering. Indeed, the violence could get even worse; if the U.S. and Iran are unable to deescalate tensions that have arisen over the past few weeks, Afghanistan could quickly become another front in the 40-year rivalry between the two nations. The Afghan people would bear the ultimate cost.

After 18 years of fighting and advising, I believe the American people would supporta full U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan if President Trump gave the order. And yet while this sentiment is more than understandable, it's incumbent upon the Trump administration to get the best possible deal on behalf of America's national security. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and the administration's point man on the conflict, has been assigned this difficult task.

We don't know where the process will lead or whether an agreement with the Taliban is even possible. But what can be said for sure is that the current diplomacy, warts and all, is the best possible avenue for the United States and the Afghan people. While it has become a cliche, there really is no military solution to the war.

If Washington hopes to finally redeploy our forces out of Afghanistan and end a war that has proceeded for what feels like an eternity, it needs to dedicate as much time and energy into the peace track as it has in bombing Taliban positions. The entire national security apparatus across the inter-agency needs to support Khalilzad's efforts, regardless of how complicated they may be.

Not all deals, however, are created equal. Any agreement with the Taliban must be worthy of the considerable sacrifices U.S. troops have endured through countless deployments over the last 18 years. - Read More

Here Is What America Must Get Right Before It Leaves Afghanistan ...


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