A majority of U.S. veterans and the public do not believe the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq were worth the sacrifice. Indeed, after nearly 20 years of overreliance on the U.S. military to fight terrorism and insurgencies worldwide, the Afghanistan intervention has not only been costly in lives and cash, but arguably counterproductive. Indeed, terrorist attacks hit 63 countries in 2019, while terrorist threats to the United States are greater today than they were in 2002. This is in large part as a result of kinetic diplomacy: the habit of responding to terrorist violence with a strategy that overrelies on military violence.
In light of America’s pending drawdown from Afghanistan, all of this raises the question — how can the United States disengage from unpopular, counterproductive military missions in a way that does the least amount of near-term damage to U.S. interests?
In my view, Washington should focus on blocking insurgent access to financial resources; acting in concert with international organizations like the United Nations; including (where possible) representatives from civil society in negotiations; limiting the number of “veto” actors who can block the peace process ending the violence and war; integrating soon-to-be-former insurgents into the political process in exchange for de-escalation; and reintegrating insurgent combatants who wish to remain warriors into the postwar state’s military, while reforming its security sector. None of these objectives — individually or as a whole — is easy. However, these best practices would advance U.S. counter-terrorism interests more effectively than continuing to accept a near permanent U.S. military presence in South Asia and the Middle East.
Read the full article in War on the Rocks.