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After sixteen years of military and political engagement in Afghanistan, the U.S. is not any closer to its goal of achieving a stable democratic Afghanistan. Efforts to stabilize Afghanistan have been thwarted by the insurgency led by the Taliban, the group the U.S. has toppled sixteen years ago. Today, even U.S. senior generals do not see victory in Afghanistan, but a stalemate.

This paper maintains that what the U.S. basically has in Afghanistan is not a Taliban or a Pakistan problem, but a conceptual error problem. Because of this error, the U.S. is in a vicious cycle that keeps conflating state-building with nation-building and violates the essence of nation-building. The paper presents two major strategies by which the U.S. can correct its error. The dual strategies suggest four ways how the U.S. can exit from Afghanistan, leaving behind a country which is stable and not serving as a haven for terrorist groups.