For the US, Afghanistan is a little like Alice in Wonderland: it takes all the running we can do, just to stay in the same place.
In a little over a month, it will be 17 years since the US led an invasion of Afghanistan. It’s the country's longest war, but only one phase in the 40 years of war that have been a part of contemporary Afghanistan.
Many Americans, especially with the amount of news being generated lately, have forgotten why their country went there, what role the US still might have there, and what has been the cost, in terms of both lives and treasure.
In this week's WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jeff Schechtman speaks with Laurel E. Miller, a senior foreign policy expert at RAND and former acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department.
Miller talks first about the impact that war fatigue might have on any attempt to find a diplomatic solution, and how the US and Afghanistan still see almost everything through very different sets of lenses.
One result is that, according to Miller, the conflict has been essentially stalemated for a decade and there is no indication on the ground or behind the scenes that the impasse is going to be broken.
Miller explains the ways in which the US has been both a stabilizing and a destructive force. Despite the grim history of military intervention, she believes Washington still has a role to play in Afghanistan, although not on the battlefield.
She brings some clarity to the discussion of how the Taliban might be brought into the political mainstream, and how ISIS — as the common enemy of the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the US — just might provide the impetus for a broad diplomatic solution.
Miller explains that while Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan may not be able to play a significant role in diplomacy, Pakistani buy-in is an absolute prerequisite to any peace in the region.
While acknowledging the difficulty of trying to make peace in one of the most corrupt countries in the world, she offers a fresh look at possible ways out of the 17-years-and-counting conflict.