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A Flawed Plan for Afghanistan

The Trouble With Deploying More U.S. Troops

A U.S. soldier on patrol in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, April 2012. Baz Ratner / REUTERS

In April 2002, in the early days of what would become the longest war in American history, President George W. Bush offered a rousing summary of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan. “We will stay until the mission is done,” he said in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute. “Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government. Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train and develop its own national army, and peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.”

Since then, the United States has repeatedly sent more troops to Afghanistan; by 2011, U.S. force levels topped one hundred thousand. Drone strikes and special operations raids have weakened al Qaeda’s leadership and killed Osama bin Laden. But almost all of Bush’s other goals remain out of reach. Today, the Taliban is gaining ground, the Afghan army is

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