theQuestion: Could Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy work or should the U.S. just get out?*
With a degree of certainty, I predict there will be a western military presence in Afghanistan for decades to come. U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t say as much when he announced his new strategy for the U.S. war in Afghanistan last week. But, it is the inevitable outcome.
Trump heralded his approach as a stark departure from his predecessors’. In a speech delivering the broad strokes of his policy, Donald Trump said, “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”
After 16 years of bloody battle, thousands of dead or injured soldiers and over $1 trillion spent by the U.S. alone, Afghanistan is no less a safe haven for terrorists than it was just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Barack Obama declared the U.S. war in Afghanistan officially over in 2014 and then ordered a massive reduction in troops stationed there — from 150,000 to 10,000. Obama’s policy gutted the American military’s capacity to brandish force as a credible deterrent. And, it opened a power vacuum that allowed huge swathes of Afghanistan to be taken over by the Taliban and ISIS terrorists in 2016.
Both actions by Obama to “cut and run,” first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, led to lost ground and a rise in savage, horrific acts of terror around the world. President Trump said in his speech the security threats “are immense” and that “20 U.S.-designated terrorists organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which is the “highest concentration” in the world. Clearly, Trump was left a mess.
Trump’s plan is to increase troops stationed in Afghanistan, which could number 4,000 or more — the president is not saying. And task those troops to train Afghanistan government forces to fight cohesively in a unit, maintain security and hold the country.
Presumably, this would create the conditions for what Trump calls a “successful outcome,” which could be defined as “a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
A power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban may just be the answer. Peace could come with a long-term deal where the U.S. has a permanent military base, free movement and immunity on the use of force while the Taliban gains official control to govern specific regions.
If detente were maintained over 30 to 40 years, it would certainly provide for opportunity to build respect and ease mistrust. It could positively impact the wider relationship between radical Islam and the West.