Washington's Colonial Conundrum in Afghanistan

Why the United States Cannot Stay Forever

This piece was published as part of The Future of Afghanistan and U.S. Foreign Policy, a collaboration between the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism and ForeignAffairs.com. (Photo: The U.S. Army / flickr)

The future of Afghanistan is crucial for three reasons. First, after a Marxist coup in 1978 shattered the patient process of 50 years of state formation, it has become increasingly unclear whether the territory bounding what we think of as Afghanistan can again become a sovereign state. Second, should a stable state fail to reemerge in Afghanistan, the political and economic costs to its neighbors and much of the world are certain to rise. Third and finally, how the international community approaches Afghanistan has direct consequences for other states whose futures are similarly in doubt and whose continuing failure generates similarly troubling negative externalities.

Afghanistan exemplifies a significant dilemma of modern foreign policy. The United States must

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