Finding a Realistic Middle Way for the U.S. in Afghanistan

Finding a Realistic Middle Way for the U.S. in Afghanistan
Security forces leave after responding to an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 31, 2017 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

While not as dangerous as Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan remains one of America’s thorniest and most frustrating security challenges. Since the George W. Bush administration intervened in that country after the attacks of 9/11, the United States has tried to create an Afghan government and train security forces that could stabilize the country and eradicate extremist organizations like al-Qaida that had been given sanctuary there under Taliban rule. The idea was that after some period of international help, the government and security forces of Afghanistan would be able to stand on their own.

Unfortunately this has not worked. While many Afghans have fought extremism with extraordinary bravery and some of the country’s leaders have pursued visionary policies, the political class—riven by factionalism, corruption and ineffectiveness—has failed to create a politically and economically viable nation or defeat the Pakistan-based Taliban.

The American public began losing patience with Afghanistan several years ago. Despite this, when former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he opted for a temporary surge in U.S. military forces—to a peak of roughly 100,000—and continued support for the Afghan government in the hopes this would convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the conflict. This was probably worth a try, but given the Afghan government’s corruption and ineffectiveness, the Taliban’s deep roots and persistence, and Pakistan’s continued support for the extremists, the policy failed. Obama subsequently drew down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to their current levels of roughly 8,400, but success is no closer today than it was when he first set out to shape the conflict’s outcome.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review