In an interview with NBC News, General Scott Miller, who took command of the war in Afghanistan, projected an air of being tough and pragmatic but he ended up recycling the same muddled thinking that has made this what will soon be the longest war in American history. Acknowledging that America’s Afghan allies were suffering heavy causalities, Miller promised to bring a more “offensive mindset” to the conflict. But, at the same time, he insisted that there was no military solution.
“This is not going to be won militarily,” Miller told the news network. “This is going to a political solution.”
He also added: “My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”
On their own terms, Miller’s words make little sense. After all, if there is no military solution, why is he pursuing a more aggressive military strategy? And if both the United States and the Taliban realize they can’t win the war on the battlefield, that doesn’t mean they will both decide to pursue a political solution.
For the Taliban, a stalemate isn’t a defeat, but simply a delayed victory. Since they are native to Afghanistan, a stalemate simply means maintaining the status quo until the United States decides to leave. As a foreign power, America is not likely to stay in Afghanistan forever. While the 17 years the United States has invested in the country is impressive, it’s natural for a foreign power to get tired of an interminable war.
Miller’s words, in other words, simply spell out the logic of an eventual American defeat.