The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now the longest in our history, and is costing the U.S. taxpayers nearly $100 billion per year, roughly seven times more than Afghanistan’s annual gross national product (GNP) of $14 billion.

Prosecuting the war in Afghanistan is not essential to U.S. security.

We have justified expanding our commitment by saying the goal was eradicating Al Qaeda. Yet Al Qaeda is no longer a significant presence in Afghanistan. There are only some 400 hard-core Al Qaeda members remaining in the entire Af/Pak theatre.

With the U.S. intervention in force, the conflict has also come to include resistance to what is seen as foreign military occupation.

Resolving the conflict in Afghanistan has primarily to do with resolving the distribution of power among these factions, and between the central government and the provinces, and with appropriately decentralizing authority.

Negotiated resolution of these conflicts will reduce the influence of extremists more readily than military action will. The Taliban itself is not a unified movement but instead a label that is applied to many armed groups and individuals that are only loosely aligned and do not necessarily have a fondness for the fundamentalist ideology of the most prominent Taliban leaders.

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This report was published on August 16 2010.

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