Whatever may be negotiated with the Taliban now, it is not likely to take place while American ground forces are still in Afghanistan, nor is any agreement worked out while the United States is there in such force likely to last. Some sort of deal does offer an excuse for an earlier American departure. We can be surprised here.
Nor does an early departure of ground forces mean that Pakistan is finished. Pakistani leaders will not commit suicide and they will continue to deal with their own Taliban with whatever help they can get from the United States. There is ample reason for us to continue large-scale economic and military assistance. The major problem is likely to be Indian-Pakistan competition in Afghanistan, which could mean a change in Pakistan’s approach to the Afghan Taliban and to Kashmir.
There is of course no easy answer for us in Afghanistan, but the administration needs to come down with a definite approach, explain it seriously and stick to it.
Morton Abramowitz is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.