By Daniel DePetris
In a perfect world, American, Afghan, and Taliban negotiators would be able to strike a comprehensive peace accord in short order that delivers historic tranquility to conflict-prone Afghanistan. Having served for decades in the State Department, James Dobbins knows a thing or two about negotiating.
Yet there is a big problem with his approach, which calls for a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan until a peace deal is fully and faithfully implemented: the talks are more likely to fall apart than succeed in clinching peace. In that case, U.S. policy in Afghanistan and U.S. military deployments would be held hostage to the willingness of the various Afghan parties to peacefully coexist. Anyone betting on such an outcome hasn’t been paying much attention.
The bottom line is that while an intra-Afghan peace would certainty be welcomed, it is far more important for Kabul than it for Washington. The U.S. should not put itself in the position of continuing to invest more lives, resources, and bandwidth on the slim chance of the Afghan government and the Taliban reconciling.
U.S. interests in Afghanistan are narrow and circumscribed: defend the homeland from transnational terrorist groups. Washington can fulfill that objective through smart and efficient intelligence work; pragmatic cooperation with tribal forces on the ground; and investment in homeland defense.
It is not Washington’s responsibility to serve as Kabul’s long-term security protector - nor is such a policy politically, economically, or militarily sustainable.
The Afghans need to solve their own political and social problems. This could take years, if it ever happens. The American people don’t want to wait years for the troops to come home - they want them home now.
Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities.
This piece was originally published by The Wall Street Journal on February 6, 2019. Read more HERE.