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How Trump Should Manage Afghanistan

A Realistic Set of Goals for the New Administration

Afghan security forces take position during a gun battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 2017. Parwiz Parwiz / REUTERS

During his February 28, 2017, address to a joint session of Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy” terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Although most U.S. media coverage has focused on U.S. operations in Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan remains an important frontline state in the struggle against terrorism. At present, there are more U.S. military forces deployed there than to any other active combat zone, and a panoply of Islamist extremist groups—from the Taliban to al Qaeda and ISIS—remain in the country and in neighboring states such as Pakistan.

This reality makes it important for the Trump administration to avoid some past U.S. missteps, such as, especially, publicizing a fixed set of deadlines to withdraw U.S. forces. Instead, the United States should retain a small military force in the country at or slightly above the

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