The key goal in Afghanistan should thus be a manageable political order that rests on both formal and tacit deals between state and nonstate actors. Strategies of containment and political favoritism will lie at the heart of this policy. After 2014, residual U.S. air power, ground forces and resources can prevent the Taliban from retaking Kabul and protect local allies while creating incentives for clear-eyed compromises. This approach holds more promise for actual success than clinging to politically naive mantras about development, governance and security. It is time to move beyond current counterinsurgency thinking and instead explore new pathways to stability in Afghanistan.
Paul Staniland is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on political violence and international security in South Asia.
Image: Kenny Holston 21