The New York Times reported July 10 on meetings between President Trump, his top advisers and private military and security company (PMSC) magnates, Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater) and Stephen A. Feinberg (owner of DynCorp International) to discuss plans for having contractors take over U.S. operations in Afghanistan. The plans are said to hew closely to the Wall Street Journal op-ed Erik Prince published in June proposing a “MacArthur solution” to Afghanistan. Like the historical analogy it borrows from, the plan proposes a U.S. viceroy, but unlike MacArthur, the viceroy would carry out his plans with the help of a private army.
Afghanistan is in the process of limiting Pakistan’s veto options on transportation of goods and looking at other routes being a landlocked country.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani visited Turkmenistan on July 3 upon invitation by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Oguzkhan Palace complex in Turkmenistan hosted the high-level talks.
With the Trump administration considering how to break the stalemate between Taliban-allied groups and the government of Afghanistan, terrorists detonated a car bomb in Kabul on May 31, killing more than 150. Afghan intelligence blamed the violence on Haqqani, a terror network with close ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. The attack demonstrates that Washington needs to focus on the threat from Haqqani, which has also consolidated militant factions across strategic regions of the war zone.
“None of us would say that we are on a course to success here in Afghanistan,” said Senator John McCain, speaking for a five-member bipartisan Senate delegation at a Kabul press briefing on July 4. The senators didn’t have to skip the July 4 parades to discover that. The United States continues its longest war–now in its 16th year–without a clue about how to win or how to get out. President Trump shows no sign of changing course: At the end of this month, he is slated to sign off on sending a few thousand more troops to Afghanistan.
On June 16, the New York Times published and op-ed titled “For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan.” The authors are right that Pakistan’s behavior must change if Afghanistan is to attain stability, but they’re naive in thinking that what they propose will produce such change.
The window during which President Donald Trump can extricate U.S. forces from the mess in Afghanistan and blame his predecessors for the calamity is rapidly closing. A few more weeks, another surge, and he will be the third president to be saddled with this war; it will become his. The move to allow the military to determine how many more troops to send to Afghanistan would have been a wise one—let the professionals make such tactical decisions—if it reflected the president’s decision to stay the course. Such a decision would follow a review of the war involving not just the Pentagon, but also the intelligence community, the State Department and the staff of the National Security Council, among others. However, that is not the way this president makes decisions. He just left it to the Pentagon to sort out.
The demand for trilateral cooperation among China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has increased more than ever in Afghanistan and China. In Pakistan, the demand for such trilateral cooperation looks good on paper, but in practice the state policy of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan hinders such cooperation. If a paradigm shift in Islamabad’s Afghan policy occurs, there will be a great future for trilateral cooperation, which can be a key to regional stability; otherwise the trilateral fate seems bleak.
Where is the United States’ war in Afghanistan going? Recently, the Trump administration gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to set troop levels there; so far, rumors suggest that 4,000 more American troops may soon be on their way to Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy thus far consists of authorizing Defense Secretary James Mattis to send thousands more troops at his discretion, which Mattis intends to do. Politically, outsourcing the decision to the former general is clever, even brilliant -- in the short run. It insulates Trump from criticism if the move fails, and allows him to take credit if by some chance the troops bring greater stability.