Afghanistan, Now And Forever?

President Trump has just embraced 16 years of war in Afghanistan and promised the American people more of the same: with a new troop build up, diplomatic pressure on Pakistan and outreach to the Taliban to entice them to the negotiating table.  These are all old familiar strategies used by his two predecessors with no success.

Donald Trump, several years ago advised then President Obama, to get the hell out of Afghanistan and spend time and resources rebuilding America. After months of deliberations with his generals Trump has been persuaded to stick with a conflict that he has vocally opposed in the past. In fact, during the campaign Trump claimed he would wind down America’s foreign wars.

Trump and his military team believe that with the Afghanistan government losing large sections of the country that the U.S. has no choice, but to dig in.  Trump reiterated that there would be no publicized withdrawal time table, as there had been with President Obama. An issue that Obama has been criticized for.

Trump’s announcement came Monday night in a 26 minute televised  address to the nation from Fort Meyers, VA.   There was a sense of bravado to his comments, one of those, “I got this” as he proclaimed “In the end, we will win.”

Trump is the third president to struggle with the Afghanistan problem. In 2001 George Bush sent special forces into Afghanistan to rout the Taliban government and track down al-Quida terrorists. Since that first commitment, actions in Afghanistan by the U.S. has cost the American people $715,ooo,000,000, 2,400 lives and another 20,000 wounded in a 16 year adventure in foreign occupation. A very heavy price for such humble results.

Afghanistan is a country besieged by ethnic, religious, cultural and tribal factions that have blocked foreign armies for millennia. Trump indicated in his address to the nation that the mission was not to re-take territory, but rather the focus would be on training Afghan Special Forces and the Afghan regular army.

In my opinion, the announcement of the troop build up was a lame effort to redirect the conversation from Charlottesville, VA.  and his own schizophrenic behaviors of the last week, to  a topic that has in the past earned him a bump in the polls, bomb strikes.

Trump has surrounded himself with generals.  He appears to defer, in some instances, to their ability.  The warning in this case would be, the military will always offer military solutions and promise victory, that’s what they are trained to do. The basic truth is that there will be no victory for the United States in Afghanistan because there is no sustainable government in place that can administer the country, and be an ally to the U.S.

Trump is vowing to “win” what seems to be an unwinnable war.  I don’t want us there, just to “win” with no specification of troop numbers, strategy, or time commitment.  Trump pointedly declined to show how many more troops will be dispatched to extend the longest war in U.S. history.  Trump indicated it would no longer be a “time based” war, but rather a “result based” conflict.

Continue reading