Successive administrations have argued that the main strategic priority moving forward is to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become host to radical Islamist groups plotting attacks on the United States. The best way to avoid this is cooperate with relevant powers in the neighborhood — Pakistan, Iran, Russia and, possibly, China. None has any interest in permitting the country to become an incubator of radical Islamist groups; but more importantly, the Taliban are ideological enemies, not allies, of ISIS and its affiliates; indeed, the recent ISIS-K bombing of Kabul airport killed twice as many Taliban as U.S. troops.
The pragmatic way to eradicate groups like this from Afghanistan is to support a strong and stable government (ISIS thrives where chaos reigns) and to equip the Taliban with the necessary tools to do the job. Unfortunately, this morally distasteful “enemy of my enemy” option appears to conflict with a second U.S. interest at stake in Afghanistan, which is protecting the few gains made over the last 20 years. Gains with respect to rights and liberties, particularly as they relate to women and girls, will almost certainly be reversed, but the Taliban cannot undo the education received by a generation of girls, and it has no incentive to roll back some non-negligible socioeconomic achievements.