Today’s Afghanistan is an outstanding example of a troubled situation that, while it warrants U.S. policy attention, does not warrant the United States carrying the main burden of managing the situation. Moreover, regimes that are most appropriately and most likely to be in the lead in such management include ones that Americans despise or distrust for a variety of reasons. The United States needs to look beyond such sentiments and realize that greater involvement and influence by an adversary in such a place is not necessarily bad and can advance objectives that the United States shares.
The regime most directly involved is, of course, the one that now rules Afghanistan itself—namely, the Taliban. There still are good reasons to loathe many of the Taliban’s policies and practices, notwithstanding the assurances their spokesmen offered when the group swept into Kabul last year. But like it or not, the Taliban won the Afghan civil war. For the foreseeable future, achievement of anything approaching peace and stability in Afghanistan will mean the Taliban consolidating their victory and overcoming any remaining pockets of resistance.
Furthering such peace and stability is important partly for humanitarian reasons. Rekindled civil warfare would mean making an existing humanitarian crisis even worse.
It also is important for security reasons of interest to the United States. The worst setback the Taliban ever suffered—being ousted from a previous position of power by a U.S.-led military intervention—resulted directly from a terrorist operation against the United States that was conducted by the Taliban’s wartime ally at the time, Al Qaeda. The Taliban have a strong reason not to let anything like that happen again. The circumstance that would most incline the Taliban to reconstruct such an alliance would be renewed civil warfare in which the Taliban once again felt the need for such assistance.
Read the full article in The National Interest.