After sixteen years of fighting what is by now the longest war in our history, American policymakers are out of ideas when it comes to Afghanistan. The Bush administration was all about nation-building: if only we built schools so that Afghan women could be educated and "liberated," a grateful people would abandon terrorism and the war would be won. The Obama administration – which came to power on the strength of candidate Obama's contention that the Iraq war was "the wrong war," and that we had neglected the Afghan front – instituted a "surge" of some 40,000 more US troops, and then declared victory in 2014. Now the Trump administration is confronted with the reality of the Taliban in charge of nearly half the country, and the dysfunctional Afghan government barely able to hold Kabul, the capital.
What to do?
Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's top political advisor and the architect of his 2016 election victory, has been pushing for the "zero option" – the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.