Limited War Means Limited Victory

Decisive victory has eluded the US-NATO effort in Afghanistan. Why? Stephen Walt tackles the issue:

First, achieving a meaningful victory in Afghanistan – defined as defeating the Taliban and creating an effective, Western-style government in Kabul – would have required sending far more troops …

Second, victory was elusive because Pakistan continued to support the Taliban …

Third, we couldn’t get Karzai to reform because he was the only game in town, and he knew it …

In short, the U.S. was destined to lose because it didn’t go all-out to win, and it shouldn’t have. Indeed, an all-out effort would have been a huge mistake, because the stakes were in fact rather modest.

I would add this. Afghanistan has been rightly a limited war, with limited goals, limited means, limited commitments, and humanitarian limits on violence against the Afghans. Such limits mean that a limited victory is just what you would expect. That is why a “meaningful” or decisive victory was so elusive.


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