Let's agree that we have a war that can't be won as long as Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, and that situation shows no sign of changing
. Let's also agree that if the US military pulls out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will slay everyone who doesn't have a beard or a burka, and create a safe haven for terrorists. So pulling out is risky.
What do you do with a problem that is unsolvable? You take a play from corporate America. When your coworker can't solve a problem, he redefines the objective until it becomes a problem that is solvable.
Suppose we apply this method to Afghanistan. We redefine our purpose for being in Afghanistan as keeping al-Qaeda from having a state-supported training ground. That's close enough to our original goal that succeeding would mean something.
The first step would be to create safe zones in Afghanistan where the Afghans who are afraid of the Taliban can live and prosper. Maybe this requires some Israeli-style walls and the support of warlords who aren't fond of the Taliban. We give the citizens of Afghanistan a one-year warning and help relocate anyone who wants to get out of the zones that are likely to come under Taliban control. This would be hugely expensive, and a great hardship on the citizens. But unlike our current approach, it could work.
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If you were wondering when I would apply my vast lack of knowledge to the Afghanistan situation, today is the day.