Although it has been over three years since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) formally winded up its military operations in Afghanistan, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general has stated that the leadership is considering complying with the request of the high command to station more troops – a few thousand extra – in a bid to keep the peace and train and facilitate the Afghan security forces. Whether this will yield results in any form is questionable, because this policy has already been tried and tested on many occasions, to fail each time without an end to the Afghan war in sight.

On the Afghan government’s part, there has to be greater impetus to lead change from the forefront. So far the government has been content to just sit idly by and say nothing while NATO forces and the US keep making all of the important decisions. The Ashraf Ghani government in particular has not even uttered a single note of dissent whenever the west is mulling which policy to employ in Afghanistan. If the government actually believes in its ability to make a lasting change (bringing peace is too much to ask for at this point), it must take the bull by the horns and decide what it wants for Afghanistan as well – without any outside influence. Instead of accepting more foreign troops, the Afghan government should demand more resources to fight the militants on its own, alongside more weapons and equipment.

Considering deploying more troops in Afghanistan also tells us that the west is quickly losing its confidence in the Afghan state’s ability to govern and keep the peace simultaneously. Going in circles is not the solution to this conundrum either, however. We are seeing a repeat of a policy that brought the west to Afghanistan in the first place. While ousting the government is no longer on the agenda, making the region ‘secure’ is essentially the same narrative that has been peddled for over a decade and a half.

The only way out of this perpetual conflict is to empower the Afghan state sufficiently – foreign nations cannot keep fulfilling the responsibility of intervening whenever the Afghan Taliban’s spring offensive gets too rough. Strengthening the army is a worthwhile endeavour, even if NATO has failed to do this properly so far. Sinking manpower, resources and effort into keeping the peace in Afghanistan with foreign military presence is only a stop-gap measure. Looking to revive the old policy is only further indication that NATO is out of ideas with regards to Afghanistan. We can only hope that the Afghan government can finally put its own thinking cap on.