Four Steps to Winning Peace in Afghanistan by Stephen J. Hadley, Andrew Wilder and Scott Worden, Washington Post
The U.S. bombing of an Islamic State stronghold in eastern Afghanistan two weeks ago, and Thursday’s news of two service members killed in an anti-Islamic State operation, are needed reminders of why we still have troops in Afghanistan. In mountains near those that once hid Osama bin Laden, a terrorist group that seeks to attack the United States is again seeking sanctuary.
Last weekend’s devastating attack on an Afghan army base in Mazar-e-Sharif that killed more than 140 soldiers is a grim reminder of the challenges confronting the Trump administration as it completes its Afghanistan strategy review. How can the United States eliminate international terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan while the Afghan government is fighting a war of attrition in which the Taliban has gained the upper hand?
During a U.S. Institute of Peace visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan this month, we met with senior officials and civil society and business leaders. Based on those discussions, we believe the solution lies in Afghan and regional politics, not just on the battlefield. The United States should shift its strategy to prioritize reaching a political settlement based on the Afghan constitution among all Afghan groups, including the Taliban. In doing so, the Trump administration can move from a policy of avoiding failure to one of achieving success.
First, the United States should use its existing counterterrorism capability to destroy all Islamic State and al-Qaeda elements in Afghanistan. It must also enhance its support for the Afghan security forces so that they can deny the Taliban strategic battlefield successes. More Afghan special forces, greater close-air support capability and better intelligence capacity are needed to maintain control of Afghanistan’s major population centers and transport arteries. An Afghanistan that can clearly survive without a peace settlement is more likely to achieve one…