A U.S. Marine from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company looks out as an evening storm gathers above an outpost near Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, Feb. 22, 2011. 
Photo by Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

The future of the war in Afghanistan takes shape under new general


Gen. Scott Miller, only two months into his tenure as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, sat down with NBC News and addressed his strategy to turn the tide.

“We are more in an offensive mindset and don’t wait for the Taliban to come and hit [us],” the general said from his post in Kabul. “So that was an adjustment that we made early on. We needed to because of the amount of casualties that were being absorbed.”

But in the same interview, Miller talked about his vision for a resolution to the conflict.

“This is not going to be won militarily,” Miller said. “This is going to a political solution.”

“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”

That assessment makes a lot of sense, but it’s hard not to notice that there’s some tension between the competing aspects of the general’s vision.

On the one hand, Miller explained the merits of “an offensive mindset” in which U.S. forces take the fight to the Taliban. On the other hand, Miller also believes the conflict cannot be won “militarily.”

I understand, of course, that the broader strategy involves making military gains, which would motivate the enemy to reach a political/diplomatic solution.

But how is that different from the plan that’s been in place for most of the 17-year war?