How to Prepare Afghanistan for U.S. Withdrawal

As the United States begins a security transition in Afghanistan, it has focused the vast majority of its strategy, efforts and resources on building Afghan security forces and weakening insurgents through military pressure. Yet the broader Afghan state is in crisis. Afghans we met with during a recent trip to Kabul warned that their country’s fragile democratic institutions were crumbling. If the current political trajectory continues, Afghan security forces may have no state left to defend.

A range of Afghans—government officials, opposition figures and members of civil society—argued that the United States must perform a tricky balancing act to strengthen the state. We should heal our rift with Afghan President Hamid Karzai but without providing unconditional financial and political support, which weakens Afghan state institutions and contributes to a culture of impunity. Relying exclusively on Karzai or pushing to marginalize him would be calamitous for Afghanistan’s stability.

This article was originally published in The Washington Post.