SMALL WARS JOURNAL: Toward an Afghan End State.
As President Trump inherits the war in Afghanistan, the best piece of advice anyone can give him is that this is about as good as it is going to get. The government controls the major population areas and the Taliban controls some largely Pashtun dominated swaths of territory along the Pakistani border. Warlords of various ethnic origins control large areas in the north and the west. None of this is an immediate threat to the vital security interests of the United States. The Taliban will not overrun the major cities, nor will the government be able to exert true control over the more remote areas of the country due to its lack of usable roads and communications.
We got into the war in Afghanistan because we wanted transnational radical Islamists out. Al Qaeda is largely gone, and although ISIS would like in, there are no indications they are welcomed by any of the major Afghan players. This does not mean that we should leave Afghanistan entirely, but it does mean that the nation building phase of that war is over.
There should never have been a nation-building phase. Afghanistan isn’t and never was a nation — it’s a spot on the map where bordering nations aren’t.