There Is No Military Path to Victory in Afghanistan

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Media Outlet: Time

John Dempsey wrote for Time about the Trump administration's military strategy in Afghanistan: 

If President Trump’s finally unveiled Afghanistan strategy was meant to distract us from perhaps his worst week as President, it succeeded, for a day. If it was designed to outline a successful U.S. plan in Afghanistan, it made some good points. It also raised a number of serious questions.
Trump claims that his strategy represents a dramatic shift from President Obama’s approach. Certainly, the arbitrary deadlines for U.S. military engagement that Obama set were a mistake, and Trump’s shift from a time-based approach to one where conditions on the ground determine the duration and level of U.S. involvement is welcome.
But just what are the conditions he’ll be examining? Trump’s affinity for secrecy in war — not signaling specific decisions on troop numbers, rules of engagement or battle plans — is designed to catch the enemy off-guard, increased civilian casualties be damned. A reluctance to define victory, however, allows for a constant shifting of invisible goal posts — which could lead to a costly, decades-long U.S. presence in the country.


John Dempsey is a fellow in New America's International Security program, with a specialization in Afghanistan and South and Southeast Asia, the laws of armed conflict, and promoting rule of law, democracy, and security in fragile and developing states.