Washington’s Gamble in Afghanistan


Michael Kugelman,The National InterestApril 22, 2019


Michael Kugelman

The U.S. decision to pursue talks with the Taliban is rife with risk, but it’s the right decision.

Washington’s Gamble in Afghanistan

There’s a famous saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By that measure, Washington has tested the limits of sanity with its strategy in Afghanistan: For seventeen years, it pursued the same policy while hoping in vain that it would produce the desired outcome.

Recent months, however, have brought a much-needed course correction. The new policy is rife with risk, but it’s the right policy—because it’s the only viable option Washington has left, the timing and conditions are right for it, and most importantly it puts America in a stronger position for an eventual but inevitable withdrawal from Afghanistan.

From Fight Now, Talk Later to Talk Right Now

For nearly two decades, U.S. troops tried to wear the Taliban down on the battlefield, hoping that such relentless pressure would convince the insurgents to agree to negotiate an end to America’s longest-ever war.

That goal motivated the American troop surge a decade ago. More recently, it was reflected in the Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy, which was announced by the president in 2017.

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