Waiting to lose in Afghanistan

Many say that the American people, after ten years, are tired of the war in Afghanistan. But I believe Americans — and certainly the U.S. military — are tired of not winning. The U.S. is in dire need of a serious shift in strategy — from one that props up a corrupt and incompetent Afghan government and simply trains and equips its security forces, to one that smashes our enemies, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. America must allow U.S. combat forces, now largely restricted to defensive actions, to take the offensive, rout the enemy from safe havens in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas, radically reduce the Taliban’s military capability, and then declare victory (which, be it noted, President Obama failed to do in Iraq) and bring our troops home.

Winning in Afghanistan does not mean that we must build a strong central government and economic prosperity — a virtual “Little America” — in that country. This was always an unrealistic project. Winning simply means that we defeat the insurgency so that, as in Iraq, our enemies know that they were defeated, cannot be emboldened by our departure, and show no imminent threat of toppling the government. Then, U.S. forces can withdraw and leave Afghans to rebuild whatever nation they see fit for themselves, with the warning: If we have to come back here again, there will be hell to pay. Why are we fighting in Afghanistan at all, if not to establish peace and deter the possibility of future war? Yet it would seem that the U.S. exit strategy currently being pursued will likely achieve the opposite.