End the insanity in Afghanistan

‘Green on blue’ is what the U.S. military calls it. Afghan troops shooting at their supposed American allies. It’s a horrifying threat to U.S. service members that has been growing in recent years. It has become an even greater menace now in the wake of public outrage over the burning of copies of the Qur’an outside Bagram Air Base last week. Another shooting incident occurred on Saturday when two U.S. military officers were gunned down by an Afghan police employee inside the heavily guarded Ministry of the Interior building in Kabul.

You know your military strategy is in trouble when your allies start turning the guns around. Last week about twenty members of the Afghan parliament read an angry statement condemning the Qur’an burning and declaring ‘jihad against Americans is an obligation.’

The White House and the Pentagon say the mission in Afghanistan remains on track and will continue, but privately they are deeply worried, with good reason. The United States has invested tens of billions of dollars in training, equipping and paying the salaries of large-scale Afghan security forces to carry on the fight. That approach has not worked in the past (the Taliban are stronger than ever and Afghan civilian casualties continue to rise), and it is even less likely to succeed now as political support for U.S. policy declines further among people in Afghanistan and here at home.

The only viable solution is a negotiated political end to the war. The Obama administration has taken tentative steps in that direction, but by continuing to pursue combat military operations it is undermining the trust that is necessary for negotiations.

As a gesture of good faith to jump start the peace process the United States should suspend combat operations. U.S. commanders could declare a temporary halt to house raids, combat patrols and bombing strikes, and offer to make this permanent if the insurgents reciprocate by halting their attacks.

Such an approach would allow U.S. commanders to pull troops back to their bases. This would get them out of the line of fire, from both insurgents and Afghan allies, and pave the way for negotiating a sustainable political solution.

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