Wish I’d said that

Last week, I questioned whether the threat from international terrorism — and specifically, al Qaeda and the Taliban — was sufficiently grave to warrant a major increase in the U.S. military commitment in Central Asia. I suggested that we needed a more careful cost-benefit analysis before plunging ahead and the always-interesting John Mueller provides one ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
586702_090416_nukes2.jpg
586702_090416_nukes2.jpg

Last week, I questioned whether the threat from international terrorism -- and specifically, al Qaeda and the Taliban -- was sufficiently grave to warrant a major increase in the U.S. military commitment in Central Asia. I suggested that we needed a more careful cost-benefit analysis before plunging ahead and the always-interesting John Mueller provides one here. It’s an excellent antidote to what seems to be an emerging consensus that U.S. security is vitally dependent on "defeating" the Taliban and creating an effective central Afghan state.

Instead of nation-building (or more precisely, state-building) in Afghanistan, our main concern should be the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and we should take care not to do anything in Central Asia that increases the chance that an anti-American terrorist group gets its hands on any of these weapons.  That requires careful judgment on what we should do, but also on what not to do.

Last week, I questioned whether the threat from international terrorism — and specifically, al Qaeda and the Taliban — was sufficiently grave to warrant a major increase in the U.S. military commitment in Central Asia. I suggested that we needed a more careful cost-benefit analysis before plunging ahead and the always-interesting John Mueller provides one here. It’s an excellent antidote to what seems to be an emerging consensus that U.S. security is vitally dependent on “defeating” the Taliban and creating an effective central Afghan state.

Instead of nation-building (or more precisely, state-building) in Afghanistan, our main concern should be the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and we should take care not to do anything in Central Asia that increases the chance that an anti-American terrorist group gets its hands on any of these weapons.  That requires careful judgment on what we should do, but also on what not to do.

Photo: RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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