Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah was supposed to inaugurate the three-day India-Afghanistan trade and investment show in New Delhi this week, but rocket attacks on Kabul airport earlier this week did not allow him to be a part of the ceremony. Instead, the fair was inaugurated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and chargé d’affaires of the US embassy in Delhi, MaryKay Carlson. Despite this, Abdullah’s visit to India this week saw him underscoring the growing potency of India-Afghanistan ties in his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Donald Trump announced a mini-surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan a month ago. This week the Long War Journal reported the Taliban now control or contest 45 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, up from 40 percent three months prior, which was an increase from 34 percent a year earlier, and you get the idea. The Taliban control more territory today than at any point since 2001, and they have the momentum.
Donald Trump mentioned Afghanistan just once in his speech to the United Nations Tuesday. His “new strategy for victory” there, he said, would help “crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.
The election of 2014, though riddled with "irregularities," brought the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Afghanistan, from Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani. With it came renewed hope that the wild dream of an Afghan-style peaceful democracy might work after all. It was a longing barely diminished by Ghani’s choice for vice president: Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord notorious for war crimes of surpassing brutality.
Here we go again! Years after most Americans forgot about the longest war this country ever fought, American soldiers are again being deployed to Afghanistan. For almost 16 years now, at the command of three presidents and a sadly forgettable succession of generals, they have gone round and round like so many motorists trapped on a rotary with no exit. This time their numbers are officially secret, although variously reported to be 3,500 or 4,000, with another 6,000-plus to follow, and unknown numbers after that. But who can trust such figures? After all, we just found out that the U.S. troops left behind in Afghanistan after President Obama tried to end the war there in 2014, repeatedly reported to number 8,400, actually have been “closer to 12,000” all this time.
If I were so bold as to send a note to President Ashraf Ghani, I would say this: Tell your people to stop waiting for help from others. They cannot rely on foreign support. Tell your citizens they should instead take an active role in restoring peace to Afghanistan themselves. Tell them they can do this. Tell them that your government will help them.
American forces could still be in Afghanistan sixteen years from now—or even generations from now—under the White House’s current strategy of maintaining an open-ended commitment to that war-torn nation.
It is impossible to win a war that you cannot define. That seems to be the main lesson to be drawn from Afghanistan, where a so-called victory seems ever more unreachable. It is also the conclusion of several experts on the region, who fear U.S. forces would be mired forever in that unjustly punished country.
Paradoxically, despite a horrific and seemingly endless war raging around them, there are brave citizens building peace across Afghanistan every day. The United Nations is doing its best to listen to each and every individual who stands up for peace. Indeed, the UN sees these actors as beacons of hope, lighting the way for change.
The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.