A 3-Step Exit Strategy for Afghanistan

    Daniel L. Davis

    Security, Middle East

    A U.S. soldier from 3rd platoon Bronco troop 5-20 infantry Regiment, attached to 82nd Airborne looks through his sights while on patrol with Afghan national Army soldiers in Zharay district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan

    America must break free from the chains of status quo failure and adopt strategies that can succeed.

    This month, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its 38th Quarterly Report to Congress. The news was bad. Without immediate and major changes in the administration’s Afghan strategy, Trump will merely be the third consecutive president to preside over a failed war policy.

    SIGAR reported that Afghan civilian casualties were up 13 percent over the same period the previous year, and despite increased focus on counternarcotics, the area under opium cultivation was a staggering 87 percent higher than the previous year. And continuing a downward trend, the Department of Defense reports that the government only controls 56 percent of the country’s 407 districts. Insurgents control or contest the rest.

    Last August, Trump unveiled his new Afghan strategy and said he recognized that, “[a]fter the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure (in Afghanistan), the American people are weary of war without victory.” Yet now that Trump has been in office for a full year, the American people continue to be presented with graphic evidence the new strategy is no closer to victory than all the failed ones which preceded it. Instead, Washington promotes assessments claiming things are improving, all evidence to the contrary.

    Ambassador Nikki Haley flatly stated that the “U.S. policy on Afghanistan is working,” citing as evidence that “we are closer to talks with the Taliban and the peace process than we’ve seen before. . . . And I think we really are going to work toward a peace process with the goal being that we do not want Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorism anymore.”

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