For more than 18 years, American forces have beaten back the enemy in Afghanistan, but leaving behind a stable, reliable country is proving far more challenging. However, terrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares says there is a way to a lasting victory there if only U.S. officials are willing to listen.
Phares says U.S. policy seems to embrace two options when dealing with enemies overseas. He praises the U.S. and our allies for repeatedly crushing the Taliban and other radical groups but points out the military gains constantly slip away due to societal instability. The other option is to declare the mission complete and leave, which runs the great risk of all gains being wiped out and extremists filling the vacuum.
Phares is tired of watching this debate. In a recent post he said victory is achievable without committing American forces to Afghanistan indefinitely.
“There is a way to win the war in Afghanistan. It’s not the way we fought it for 18 years and not the alternative suggestion to talk to the Taliban and leave. Washington, Administration & Congress must challenge themselves to win and leave. It could have been won within a decade,” Phares wrote, later adding that his approach would wrap up the Afghanistan mission in three years.
And what is his plan?
“It’s to leave but always leave behind allies, forces, and, most importantly, a civil society that can resist. We need to inject strength in civil society,” said Phares.
He says we need to make the Taliban’s allies our allies.
“Those forces who can help us – if we want to withdraw – will be the same forces that the Taliban has used for so many years, the tribes,” said Phares.
“The Taliban has used the Pashtun tribes for the the past 15 years. We haven’t approached them strategically. We haven’t included them in the government. I wouldn’t vote to bring the Taliban to government, but I would vote to bring the Pashtun tribes…to government,” he added.
Phares says the other critical element towards a stable society is winning over the women of Afghanistan, especially the mothers and the teachers.
“(Mothers) are in contact with their children for so many hours. This is where you begin counter-radicalization, not at age forty or thirty when the Taliban recruit them,” said Phares.
“There are 18,000-25,000 teachers in Afghanistan. They are training the minds of the kids from age five or six until they leave the school,” said Phares.
Listen to the full podcast to hear how these ideas are being received in Afghanistan and here in Washington and why he thinks a similar approach would also work in Syria.