June 19, 2017


Until now, Western forces have been able to keep the government in power by financing the budget and paying salaries and maintaining the Afghan army in the field. But it has become increasingly difficult, with the Taliban advancing in many parts of the country making US and NATO forces look increasingly irrelevant. Opposition politicans have been willing to contradict the Americans, but that may be changing.

In view of the growing brazenness of Taliban attacks, there are now deep fissures in the US National Security Council between those, including Mattis, who want to send thousands more US troops in a last-ditch effort to save the regime from collapse and those, such as adviser Steve Bannon, who want the US to walk away from what is clearly a failing military endeavor and a failed state. But Trump’s decision this week to hand over the troop decision to the military itself suggests that those arguing for a new troop surge will get the upper hand. This is a hopeless strategy.

No matter how many troops Mattis decides to send this summer, it will not rectify the political crisis in Kabul.

Forcing the nation-state model on a place where there is no nation and has only fleetingly been a state is doomed to failure.