Is the War in Afghanistan Winnable?

Author:Fly, Jamie

For 17 years, the United States has had troops fighting in Afghanistan. The war there began in October 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The goal was to oust the repressive Taliban regime, which had allowed the terrorists who planned 9/11 to operate freely out of the country. The conflict in Afghanistan is now the longest in our nation's history, and President Trump has increased the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan as part of an effort to stabilize the country. The Trump administration is also trying to launch negotiations with the Taliban in an effort to end the conflict. Two experts--one from a public policy think tank that favors international cooperation and the other an academic expert on international politics--disagree about whether American goals in Afghanistan are achievable.


In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States quickly toppled Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which had harbored the terrorists responsible.

Unfortunately, in the years that followed, the U.S. didn't devote enough resources to the war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban were able to regain strength. As a result, Afghanistan remains wracked by violence, even as important political achievements have occurred.

Stability in Afghanistan remains important to U.S. interests, and we can achieve that. But we can't do it alone. The Afghan government must convince the Afghan people that their best hope for the future lies not with the Taliban but with a central government in Kabul that addresses their needs.

We've already made huge strides. While the Taliban and other extremist groups continue to carry out high-profile attacks, these are essentially acts of desperation, as their control remains limited to rural regions and their leaders remain outside of Afghan territory. Unlike under the brutal era of Taliban rule, Afghans are free to choose their leaders. In many parts of the country, women and girls have rights that in the past they could only dream of. Millions of children unable to attend school during the era of Taliban rule now have hope for the future. American troops and involvement have been key to these successes, and if we remain focused on our mission in Afghanistan, more progress will follow.

On the flip side, the risks of a hasty American withdrawal are clear. One need look no further than the damage done by the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which led to the rise of ISIS and eventual attacks on the U.S...

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