Washington, D.C. — After more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan, it’s time for the United States to begin withdrawing troops and focusing on bigger threats to U.S. national security, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
As climate change worsens, authoritarianism grows, and powers such as Russia and China become more assertive, the report argues that the United States must significantly reorient its priorities. Overall, the United States is overinvested in Afghanistan compared with the relatively low-level threat that terrorists in the country pose to U.S. interests today.
“It’s time to recognize that the opportunity costs of a perpetual U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan could be greater than the risks of ending America’s involvement in the war, even if there is no peace,” said Kelly Magsamen, vice president for National Security and International Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “By staying in Afghanistan with the current level of U.S. military and financial support, the United States is diverting attention and resources away from more important national security threats.”
To end the war responsibly, the report says the United States must:
- Pursue multipronged diplomacy with the Taliban, the Afghan government, and regional neighbors to strike a peace deal that can stabilize the political and security situation in Afghanistan.
- Begin a phased military withdrawal. While this process should not be tied to progress in negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, part of its goal should be to spark progress in talks with the Taliban and encourage regional actors to play a more constructive role in Afghanistan.
- Secure a long-term international commitment to the Afghan people, including a strong U.S. commitment—together with international partners—to offer financial support to the Afghan government and security forces.
“While the United States should withdraw its military from Afghanistan, ending the war should not end America’s commitment to Afghanistan,” said Michael Fuchs, CAP senior fellow and co-author of the report. “In fact, it may require greater U.S. financial and diplomatic commitments. The United States must remain the leading financial supporter of the Afghan government and security forces.”
Read the report: “The Case for a New U.S. Relationship with Afghanistan” by Kelly Magsamen and Michael Fuchs.
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