What Next in Afghanistan?

Those who are grappling with the Afghan riddle today should consider, first and foremost, the regional realities: can the West afford to withdraw? If not, we should stop discussing an “exit strategy” and get on with the business of attending to the neighborhood's many crises while stepping up out military presence and reconstruction efforts in the Hindu Kush.

BERLIN – Afghanistan’s future does not look good. The Taliban are gaining military and political strength, and President Hamid Karzai is losing support at home and internationally due to his administration’s rampant corruption and the obvious fraud committed in his re-election. Weariness with the war is spreading in the United States, where President Barack Obama finds it difficult to decide about an increase in troops, as demanded by his own generals. European NATO members with troops in Afghanistan would prefer to withdraw them today rather than tomorrow.

The West seems to have lost its orientation in the Hindu Kush – that “graveyard of empires,” as it was called after the British disaster in January 1842, when only one man survived an expedition 16,000. What, many people are asking, is NATO really fighting for in Afghanistan?

Europe remains silent on that question and has only one aim: to get out. In the US, the debate about the purposes being served in Afghanistan is at least still taking place. Follow it, and you will conclude that, ultimately, the war is all about the American superpower’s military victory over the Taliban, so that it can finally withdraw its troops – for a second time.

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