Politicians and everyday Americans use the term “endless wars” to describe the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Yet that generalization ignores the active effort to reduce the financial and human cost of U.S. operations while still pursuing counterinsurgency objectives.
The U.S. government’s Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR) framework provides an opportunity to clarify and streamline stabilization assistance, though implementation will require sustained leadership, an interagency roadmap, new processes, bureaucratic incentives, and a review of authorities and resources.
Without a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, which is still a longshot, a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious risks. Chief among them would be the resurgence of terrorism and the deterioration of human rights—including women’s rights—that come with a Taliban victory. A precipitous exit from the country might be worse than the status quo.