An exit strategy for Afghanistan should revolve around two objectives: establishing a power-sharing equilibrium between the various ethnic/tribal groups and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist haven. The latter point, as earlier discussed, is achievable through constant intelligence cooperation with the Afghan government and its neighbours–and, of course, drone and cruise missile technology. This, however, requires that there be a somewhat friendly Afghan government in Kabul, friendly warlords and tribal leaders in provinces like Helmand and Kandahar, and cooperation from Pakistan, India, Iran, Tajikistan, Iran and Russia.

The goal of a cooperative Afghanistan is commensurate with the creation of a stable power-sharing regime in the country.  With each of the above mentioned actors–who, in turn, back local groups in Afghan–pursuing often conflicting objectives, the United States’ exit strategy must consist of carefully balancing their interests against one another. It will require shifting considerable diplomatic focus to the region at large, which, the appointment of Ambassador Holbrooke, accomplishes. It will require addressing Pakistan’s fear of a pro-India Afghanistan, allowing Russia adequate influence in the country and allaying the concerns of various minority groups. It will also mean abandoning the idea of a centralized Afghanistan and instead embracing the idea of decentralized, warlord-controlled Afghanistan. For more on my reasons for pessimism I suggest reading Rory Stewart’s essay in the London Review of Books and this essay by an ex-CIA officer .

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