As President Trump wrestles with America’s role in Afghanistan, he should first decide what our objectives are today compared to what we wanted immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.
Initially, the United States overthrew the Taliban regime but failed to destroy it completely. Regime supporters, allied tribal forces and opportunistic warlords escaped (or returned) to Pakistan’s frontier regions to establish sanctuaries.
Similarly, while the Taliban’s ouster also forced al-Qaida into exile in Pakistan and elsewhere, al-Qaida nonetheless continued and expanded its terrorist activities. In Iraq and Syria, al-Qaida morphed into the even more virulent ISIS, which is now gaining strength in Afghanistan.
In short, America’s Afghan victories were significant but incomplete.