For better or worse, the United States military is leaving Afghanistan. Proponents for withdrawal argue the U.S. has done all it can militarily in the country, has more pressing security interests elsewhere and may do more harm than good by staying. Critics say the power vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind will reignite a civil war and open the door to ethnic cleansing, gender apartheid and state failure.

Both views have merit, but the choice is not between these options alone. Yes, the U.S. record of nation-building in Afghanistan is poor. And yes, power vacuums and state fragility breed insurgencies, instability and transnational crime. What is needed now is not a further prolonged U.S. military presence or, alternatively, the military equivalent of a concert of external powers in Afghanistan. Instead, what’s needed is the steadying hand of a robust international peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace-enforcement mission…

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