Afghanistan the Central Issue at

It has been suggested in some quarters that negotiating with the Taliban may be a solution, but at no point has that group ever demonstrated a propensity to negotiate nor has it demonstrated the integrity to follow through on any agreements. Thus, this option is impractical.

Each of these alternatives meets at least one of the objectives, but each comes with an associated cost. The first alternative addresses the first and third objectives, but carries with it a high cost, uncertain time frame and allows for the second objective to fail. The second course of action makes the first and third unlikely to succeed, may not address the second and only partially addresses the fourth objective. It is a compromise, but a relatively poor one. The third option allows for the first option to be addressed, probably the second and maybe the fourth, but it does little to ensure the third objective will succeed. The fourth option allows the fourth objective to succeed, and may contribute to the second objective succeeded, but does nothing for the first and third objectives.

It is recommended therefore that the third option be accepted. By slowly reducing combat operations but maintaining them until the country is ready, but repositioning American involvement into a more positive role, the first and second objectives are more easily met. The third objective may not be, but there is an opportunity to genuinely capture the hearts and minds of Afghans and convince them to defeat the Taliban. This recommendation is also going to lower the costs of the mission and free up combat resources for action elsewhere. It does not do this to the extent of a full withdrawal, but this plan also lessens the negative consequences associated with full withdrawal. Therefore, the U.S. should slowly unwind its combat operations but replace them with nation-building operations and a more positive role in the region. This places defeating the Taliban outright further down the scale of importance, but increases the odds of success of the other three options in the long run..

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