Our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban. ~Mitt Romney

I understand the sentiment to which Romney was so blatantly pandering during the New Hampshire debate, but at the same time I am puzzled by his statement. The war against the Taliban is not a “war of independence” in any meaningful sense. Afghanistan’s independence has never been at stake, because Afghanistan’s independence has been severely compromised for much of its history and continues to be so to this day. On one side, there is the prospect of Pakistan’s dominance of an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban, and on the other there is an Afghanistan dominated by Tajiks more closely aligned with Iran. Whether or not the U.S. and NATO depart from Afghanistan after having claimed victory, Afghanistan’s independence will continue to be limited by what its neighbors want from it. Romney’s description of this as a “war for independence” treats one of these arrangements as if it were genuine Afghan independence, when that is not and has never been in the cards. It seems that this was Romney’s bungled attempt to express skepticism about U.S. support for foreign causes without being able to articulate why this support was misguided.