America’s Exit Strategy for Afghanistan is Flawed

    Phillip O’Neill

    Security, Middle East

    An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

    It is time for America to end a militarized process that had its inception with the reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan decades ago.

    As the United States enters its seventeenth annual fighting season in Afghanistan, the endgame seems no closer. America continues to try to club the Taliban into talking; they endeavor to expel us. America ratchets up financial coercion against Pakistan seeking fuller cooperation; Pakistan hedges its bets in facing existential threats. Since continuing violence in Afghanistan is inextricably intertwined with Pakistan, a “package deal” is necessary to close America’s military campaign in South Asia. Yet, agreement has proven elusive through multiple administrations, with recycled proposals failing.

    America’s continuing commitment to force signals there will be no “walk away” this time, unlike Iraq. The Trump administration currently weighs harsher penalties on Pakistan to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region. However, coercion alone will not end the fighting or bring security. The issue is how the alignment of force and circumstance facilitates pursuit of peace. The answer should yield our principles of action to achieve security.

    Where Are We Now?

    The starting point is acknowledgement that as long as our troops are there, which is indeterminate, violence will continue. After these many years of war, America must recognize that its military deployment continues to act as a force multiplier for the opposition. Likewise, while others think that America seeks to impose its governance and values on them, opposition will persist. U.S. efforts sustain the quagmire; they do not end it.

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