The NATO airstrike that killed at least 80 people in Afghanistan was a stark reminder of the struggle to secure the country, not that anyone needed one. When the new U.S. commander took over three months ago, he vowed to reduce precisely these sorts of tragedies, which have become a major sore point between Kabul and Washington. As the Taliban's challenges intensify and NATO continues to operate without additional troops, coalition forces may continue to resort to dropping bombs in civilian areas. Is there another way? Here are some ideas.

  • Add Pressure, Build Unity  Mark Moyar, a professor of national security affairs, writes in the New York Times that if history is any guide, transforming raw, untrained soldiers into a robust counterterrorism force may take at least a decade. Moreover, increasing the number of Afghan troops would only result in their deterioration "[b]ecause the Afghan army and police simply have too few good officers to lead the forces already in existence, let alone new forces," he writes. Moyar argues that to effect a quick and dirty turnaround, as many American policymakers are expecting, the U.S. needs to do three things:
    • Pressure senior Afghan leaders to weed out bad commanders
    • Assign more and better officers to advise Afghan units
    • American units should work more closely with Afghan units
    What if all of those methods don't work? Moyar suggests a last resort: putting indigenous units under coalition command.
  • Don't Give Up Just Yet  Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes that airy hopes that Afghanistan will heal itself if Americans pull out is"a fantasy world of our own unmaking." Gerson agrees that a more promising strategy in Afghanistan would require additional troops, more resources and even more patience on Afghans' part, but he also sees a brighter side in all this. "America is not without advantages in this fight. The people of Afghanistan know what it is like to live under the Taliban, and there is no evidence they want to go back to it. Afghan consent for the American presence in their country, according to polls, is resilient and sustained," he adds.
  • Stop Politicizing  Dan Senor and Peter Wehner of the Wall Street Journal says that the history of opposition parties turning against wars to score a political gain needs to stop. "President Obama has acted in a way that advances America's national security interests and its deepest values. Republicans should say so," they write. They go on to argue that Afghanistan is not just Obama's war but every American's war: "If we were to fail in Afghanistan, it would have calamitous consequences for both Pakistan and American credibility. It would consign the people of Afghanistan to misery and hopelessness. And Afghanistan would once again become home to a lethal mix of terrorists and insurgents and a launching point for attacks against Western and U.S. interests."