A Stalemate, Not a Crisis

Is the United States at a “critical juncture” in Afghanistan, as we hear so many pundits claim? “To be at a ‘critical juncture’ implies that one side or the other is poised to decisively gain the upper hand and therefore to win,” A.J. Rossmiller writes in The New Repbulic. “But the situation in Afghanistan is almost the exact opposite of that.” Neither U.S. forces nor the insurgency are about to defeat the other—and a troop “surge” of 40,000 isn’t likely to tip the balance. (Rossmiller uses General David Petraeus’ formula to estimate that the U.S. would need 568,000 troops to wage a successful counterinsurgency.) So what are our options? One is to maintain the status quo. The second is a political compromise. The key to the latter is to split the nationalists from the international terrorists. By giving the nationalists—including the Taliban—a voice in government, as we did in Iraq, a political compromise could be possible.