Current U.S. policy toward Afghanistan involves spending scores of billions of dollars and suffering several hundred allied deaths annually to prevent the Afghan Taliban from controlling the Afghan Pashtun homeland—with little end in sight. Those who ask for more time for the existing strategy to succeed often fail to spell out what they think the odds are that it will work in the next few years, what amount of casualties and resources they think the attempt is worth, and why. That calculus suggests that it is time to shift to Plan B.
The United States and its allies are not on course to defeating the Taliban militarily. There are now about 150,000 U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan. This is 30,000 more troops than the Soviet Union deployed in the 1980s, but less than half the number required having some chance of pacifying the country, according to standard counterinsurgency doctrine.
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