The Case for Humility in Afghanistan

A Taliban victory would have devastating consequences for U.S. interests. But to avoid disaster, America must beware the Soviet Union’s mistakes — and learn from its own three decades of failure in South Asia.

Steve Coll in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 19 10.11 To protect the security of the American people and the interests of the United States and its allies, we should persist with the difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan and reverse the Taliban's momentum. This will probably require additional troops for a period of several years, until Afghan forces can play the leading role.

However, that depends on the answer to Gen. Colin Powell's reported question, “What will more troops do?” As Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his recent assessment, “Focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely.” Instead — after years of neglect of U.S. policy and resources in Afghanistan and after a succession of failed strategies both in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the United States, as McChrystal put it, has an “urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.” While I cannot endorse or oppose McChyrstal's specific prescriptions for the next phase of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan because I do not know what they are, I do endorse the starting point of his analysis, as well as his general emphases on partnering with Afghan forces and focusing on the needs of the Afghan population. I believe those emphases are necessary but insufficient.

More here. [Thanks to Feisal H. Naqvi.]