Two months into 2014, and the US is still unclear on whether it will initiate a complete pull-out of Afghanistan or draw down its forces to only “assist, advise and train” the Afghan armed forces. A complete US withdrawal would mean handing Afghanistan to the Taliban on a silver platter, and this seems to be why the administration is considering waiting for the election and the new President before they make a final decision.

This war repeats the mistakes of past US wars where the US had gone in head first with disastrous consequences: Vietnam, Panama, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia, to name a few. The Vietnam War led to the deaths of over 1 million people in 15 years and ultimately led to US defeat. Over 2 million died in Cambodia as a result of carpet bombing, and the political chaos that was caused as a result.

Afghanistan however, is different on some level. The Pashtunwali culture for one, breeds seasoned fighters that have fought for generations against various enemies: from the British in the colonial era to the Russians in the Cold War. Guerrilla warfare is their specialty which, alongside the terrain, gives them an intrinsic advantage over America’s standing army. Over the course of this war, the US has slowly learnt at great cost, how to counter guerrilla warfare (but only to the extent, it seems, that they can marginally keep terrorists at bay). This was predictable, and analysts have been citing it as the likely end to the conflict, which, in a nutshell entails the US giving up and going home.

And here we are once more, not thirteen years down the road but, (to stretch history’s lessons a bit further), twenty five years away from Feb 1989, when the last of the Soviets left Afghanistan. Now, the US has a choice to make but so do we. This war has failed. Bin laden is dead but terrorism is going strong. America can leave Afghanistan completely which would mean chaos for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Or, it can stay, until the Afghan army is capable of countering the threat of the Taliban by itself. In both these scenarios, the Pakistan government and the ISI will have to seriously evaluate its options. A quarter of a century on, we cannot afford to exploit the wastelands of another Afghan war. We are still suffering the consequences of the last one.