The New Rules: Long-Term U.S. Presence in Afghanistan a Mistake

The New Rules: Long-Term U.S. Presence in Afghanistan a Mistake

The Obama administration has begun talks with Afghanistan designed to quell the Karzai government's fears about being abandoned by the West come 2014. Those talks are said to involve negotiations for long-term basing of U.S. troops involved in training Afghan security forces and supporting future counterterrorism operations. This can be seen as a realistic course of action, given our continuing lack of success in nation-building there, as well as our inability -- although perhaps unwillingness is a better term -- to erect some regional security architecture that might replace our presence. But there are good reasons to question this course.

Strengthening Afghanistan is a good idea; convincing the region's major players -- Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, India and China -- that America will remain Kabul's primary external patron is not. And the truth is, we might not be as "indispensable" in this instance as we continue to assume.

Afghanistan is a natural crossroads that nonetheless remains a place where all the transcontinental railroads seem to end. It is bounded on all sides by up-and-coming powers that, for various reasons, are highly incentivized to see it stabilized: To the south and to the east lie the two great rising economies of the era; to the north and west are any number of countries interested in accessing those markets by land. So why is Washington so convinced that the U.S. is the only great power that can take ownership of this situation, especially when there are so many other more important relationships to manage in the general vicinity?

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