On the fifth anniversary of the launch of the U.S.-led war against Afghanistan, the Taliban is on the offensive, much of the countryside is in the hands of warlords and opium magnates, U.S. casualties are mounting, and many, if not most, Afghans are actually worse off now than they were before the U.S. invasion.

U.S. policy is responsible for many of the problems afflicting Afghanistan today. The United States has tolerated the rise of warlords and has worked with drug lords as long as they promise to remain political allies. Civilian casualties in the war against the Taliban and endemic corruption in the U.S.-backed government have contributed to popular resentment. The war in Iraq has diverted U.S. resources that could have been used to stabilize Afghanistan and promote sustainable development.

Despite these manifold failures of Bush administration policy, however, the United States can take several steps to contribute to the prospects of peace and security in Afghanistan.

  • develop a counter-insurgency strategy that lessens reliance on air power, which has thus far resulted in large-scale civilian casualties
  • broaden the multinational force to include troops from Muslim nations to counter the xenophobia resulting from the predominance of North American and European forces
  • insist that Pakistan eliminate the sanctuaries used by Taliban and al-Qaida forces to infiltrate into Afghanistan
  • dramatically increase international economic assistance to Afghanistan under United Nations supervision designed to create sustainable development, particularly in rural areas
  • pressure the Karzai regime to crack down on corruption and purge his government of war criminals, opium magnates, and others who have abused the human rights of the Afghan people