Courtesy Reuters

Following the 9/11 attacks, Washington opted for a troop-lite approach to removing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Over the next four years, the civilian and military components of the international presence in Afghanistan grew, even though the strategic focus of the United States and the United Kingdom shifted to Iraq. During this time, the remnants of the Taliban slowly regrouped and began preparations to launch a large-scale insurgency, which erupted in 2006. Since then, the number of international forces in Afghanistan has increased each year, as the 47-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has attempted to tame the Pashtun-dominated south, the Taliban's heartland. The U.S. troop surge in 2010 heralded a further evolution in the West's strategy.

Yet peace will remain elusive unless the international community can deal with the five binds that have proven difficult to escape in Afghanistan.

The first is the country's overall strategic, political dilemma: Should ISAF focus its

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  • GREG MILLS heads the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation. As an adviser to the International Security Assistance Force, he served in Kabul in 2006 and Kandahar in 2010. DAVID RICHARDS is Chief of Defense Staff of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. He was Commander of the U.K.-led Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone in 2000 and Commander of ISAF from 2006 to 2007. The views expressed here are their own.
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