Put simply we will never win in Afghanistan. The reason for this is that our view of victory is unachievable. We are not even sure what victory would look like. Having a McDonald's on every street corner seems to have been the original aim however in a place that is anything from 500 to 1000 years behind the rest of the world culturally is this possible? Probably not.
Everyone believes the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan. However when the Soviets withdrew they left behind a stable government with a large capable army which was able to take on and defeat the insurgents. It was only once the cash stop ed coming from Moscow in 1991 that the government collapsed. This scenario of a stable government with a capable army is pretty much NATO's wet dream at this point and as we said before we consider the Soviet to have been defeated.
The simple fact is that Afghan's like to fight. Its pretty much a sporting event for them. Its one that they are very good at to. They have been fending of aggressors since Alexander the Great. The simple fact is that no matter what they will out last us.
We may feel that pulling out altogether is the best strategy however this does not pay attention to the reason we entered in the first place. Eventually the Taliban will reassert themselves bring back there old Jihad buddies and try to over throw Pakistan which will be the UBER CLUSTER F**K of all time.
We need a strategy that can allow us to permanently destabilise the Taliban that cost us very little. It has to cost us little because this is the only way we can stay there for long enough. Even our best estimates for this war will be 15 years. Almost three times as long as WWII or Vietnam. In that period we seem to have achieved almost nothing despite pouring in billions and countless lives.
We should remember that it took only a matter of weeks to defeat the Taliban in 2001. It required nothing more than a handful of special forces and aircraft.
We should also remember that the Taliban is not a unified force but a loose collection of war lords, drug dealers and fanatics.
To my mind the only way to deal with such a group is to promote infighting amongst themselves. Use special forces and airstrike's to prevent any one group from dominating the country and posing a large scale threat to its neighbours.
Bomb insurgent training bases from the air. Use napalm against poppy fields. Supply arms to the more desirable elements. Work with moderates and do everything possible to destroy and kill the extremists. Work on a basis of fighting a cheap war for 50 years or more.
Eventually even the Taliban will tire. Especially in a war where there are no soldiers to shoot at. Not vehicles to use IED's against. Only unmanned robots over head raining down death and destruction any time you try to make a move.
We have to be realistic in what we hope to achieve with these people also. We cannot hope to eliminate the poppy trade. We cannot hope for them to adopt western liberal ideals and democracy. Our aim should be simple. Do not give alqaeda a base. No terrorists or Islamic extremists. No attempt to destabilise Pakistan or any other neighbour. Other than that we will leave you alone.
With the type of long endurance UCAV"s that will soon be available it should be possible for us to conduct this type of operation without risking any lives. a dozen or so in the air at any time would be a potent ability.
At the end of the day the side that wins in Afghanistan is the side which has a clear objective and can last the longest. To win we must first modify our objectives then implement a long term strategy that can be sustained indefinitely.
We might also look to break the country up into a number of smaller states. This will give us a larger potential pool of willing ward lords to work with.
These smaller less ethnically diverse states may be much easier to work with and more stable in the long run. We may even want to consider allowing neighbouring states such as Uzbekistan and even Iran to absorb boarder region's into their own nations.