Small Wars Journal

In Afghanistan’s Unwinnable War, What’s the Best Loss to Hope For?

In Afghanistan’s Unwinnable War, What’s the Best Loss to Hope For? By Max Fisher – New York Times

After 16 years of war in Afghanistan, experts have stopped asking what victory looks like and are beginning to consider the spectrum of possible defeats.

All options involve acknowledging the war as failed, American aims as largely unachievable and Afghanistan’s future as only partly salvageable. Their advocates see glimmers of hope barely worth the stomach-turning trade-offs and slim odds of success.

“I don’t think there is any serious analyst of the situation in Afghanistan who believes that the war is winnable,” Laurel Miller, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said in a podcast last summer, after leaving her State Department stint as acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This may be why, even after thousands have died and over $100 billion has been spent, even after the past two weeks of shocking bloodshed in Kabul, few expect the United States to try anything other than the status quo.

It is a strategy, as Ms. Miller described it, to “prevent the defeat of the Afghan government and prevent military victory by the Taliban” for as long as possible.

Though far from the most promising option, it is the least humiliating. But sooner or later, the United States and Afghanistan will find themselves facing one of Afghanistan’s endgames — whether by choice or not…

Read on