The Strategic Importance of the United States in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has made major social, economic, and political gains over the past 17 years. Unfortunately, conversations regarding Afghanistan in Washington and elsewhere often focus solely on the challenges and problems. It is true that problems lie ahead, but what is almost never discussed are the many gains that have been achieved since the turn of the century. During Taliban rule, girls were prohibited from attending school. Today, there are roughly 4 million girls in school in Afghanistan. Moreover, millions of cellphones have empowered people by connecting them to the world, GDP per capita has increased by over three-fold, and the government's capacity to collect tax revenue for its own security and development has improved significantly from almost nothing in 2002.
As the Afghans stand up, we can responsibly stand down. A precipitous withdrawal of our security forces, our financial support for the Afghan army, and/or our foreign aid would be a moral disaster and strategic setback for the United States. The United States should be seeking a "Finish Strong" strategy that keeps the faith to our commitments through 2024; we can negotiate a gradual, sensible burden shift towards the Afghans if we stay the course, partner with our Afghan friends, and work with our allies.
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