Back when he had not been in the White House very long, President Obama called the fight in Afghanistan as “a war of necessity.” That, to distinguish it from his predecessor’s “war of choice,” in Iraq and to justify the decisions he would make and the actions he would take to make sure that the conflict in Afghanistan went our way. Among these decisions was a troop “surge,” modeled after the one that had been successful in Iraq.
Afghanistan may still be the necessary war but the surge and then abandonment did not prove sufficient to win it or to create a situation that would leave the United States feeling confident that its interests were secure. The political situation is, in fact, so fragile at the moment that, as Ernesto Londoño and Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post report:
… the United States is suddenly contemplating having to dismantle the bulk of its counterterrorism infrastructure in the region and abandon Afghanistan’s fledgling security forces. A wholesale withdrawal would also shut down the foreign-aid pipeline that keeps the Afghan state afloat and sharply limit any enduring U.S. diplomatic presence.
It is hard to know exactly what a “win” in these 21st century wars would look like. But fair to say, it would not look like this.