The DOD has released a report for congress called “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” Read the full report here.

The war in Afghanistan is not the same as it was in 2001, nor is it the same as it was five years ago. Things are constantly evolving and changing, and with these changes U.S. authorities have laid out one primary goal: To keep Afghanistan from becoming a base of operations for terrorist activities that can strike internationally, particularly against the United States. To that end, a stable government will need to be established in order to effectively combat terrorist activities on a domestic level. Defeating the Taliban is not necessarily a part of that goal.

Still, stabilization is easier said than done, if the last 17 years have been any indication. However, recent developments have shown possibilities for a reconciliation between the Taliban and the United States — a fatwa outlawing suicide bombing, and a temporary truce over the three-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr, to name the more significant ones. The United States does not need to be at peace with the Taliban, as they pose no legitimate threat once the U.S. has left the country, as long as they do not make a breeding ground for other international terrorist organizations.

In regards to this reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the report says,

The assets and authorities to implement the South Asia Strategy in Afghanistan are now in place and have generated optimism within the Afghan government and ANDSF (Afghan National Security Forces) that a political settlement with the Taliban is possible. The key to success remains sustained military pressure against the Taliban in order to eliminate the idea that they can achieve their objectives through violence and continuation of the conflict.”

Essentially, they want to make peace the only viable option for the Taliban.

If the Taliban can be considered a political party while filling under the umbrella of the Afghan government, then change and negotiations can occur in the context of peace. However, this requires the Afghan government to continue in its slow growth, to the point where it is militarily and financially stable. If it cannot hold its own, another local power (the Taliban) will fill the void. The report outlines some of the requirements necessary for the Afghan government to fully become an independent state in order to achieve these goals.

This is an in-depth, 125 page report on the U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan, their plans, goals, standards and conditions in which they are working. It is a comprehensive document, though as the situation on the ground evolves, no doubt the plan will evolve with it.