This year’s seniors have no memory of life without America maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan. Results from last month’s elections in that country won’t be certified until December, but fears concerning fraud and coercion already threaten to bring escalating levels of discontent and violence once they are announced. Some Western governments, including the United States, don’t want to negotiate with the Taliban until it stops using violence as a means to legitimize its rule; the Taliban insists it won’t stop using violence until it is recognized as legitimate. We seem to be at a decades-long impasse.
U.S.-trained Afghan forces have again proved less than effective in deterring the Taliban, much less defeating it in combat. This in turn emboldens the Taliban–not to mention Islamic State advocates. Add this to the current administration’s strained relationships with Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia, and the specter another decade of ideological war-by-proxy looms.
So my question, dear bloggers, is this: at what point do we simply throw up our hands and say enough? Should we worry about a graceful exit at this point? Does pulling out of Middle Eastern conflicts produce a good end, or further destabilize an area where atrocities run rampant? What moral obligations might we have to that region after seventeen years of military conflict?