“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!” That was Donald Trump tweeting in November 2013. Fast forward and President Trump is considering sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Although the precise troop numbers and particulars of their deployment are still being mapped out, all indications are that these additional forces would not directly contribute to the counter-terrorism mission. Rather, they would be sent to shore up the Afghan government forces fighting against the Taliban. As the White House reviews the proposed increase, there are numerous questions it should address. Four are paramount.
Describing the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as the breeding ground for international terrorism, European Parliament (EP) Vice President Ryszard Czarnecki has said there is a need for the European Union and the United States to review their respective Afghan policy to foster long-term peace in the region, rather than pouring millions of Euros in aid to Afghanistan, and trying to win a war that cannot be won.
According to legend, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky famously said that “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
So it is with Afghanistan and the Trump administration, which is reportedly considering a recommitment to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, as well as the deployment of 3,500 more U.S. troops.
In recent days, with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency continuing to gain steam and America's longest war staggering through its 16th year, analysts have started invoking the v-word (and it's not "victory").
The Trump administration apparently decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan. The move is a mistake and fails to recognize that the foundational problem of the ongoing conflict is political and diplomatic—and will not be solved by the military.
The British Government yesterday made the rash decision to send 100 further troops to Afghanistan to add to the 500 who are already there.
Given that we had some 10,000 servicemen in the country a few years ago, this relatively minor additional commitment may seem very small beer to some. It is also true the new troops, like those already deployed, won’t intentionally be involved in combat. Their main role is to train Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.
For the last month, American and Afghan forces have been engaged in a new offensive against an Islamic State offshoot based in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. The Trump administration dropped what it boasted was the biggest non-nuclear bomb on the group’s hide-outs on April 13; a militant leader and two American soldiers have been killed in the operations. An American military spokesman claimed there was a “very good chance” that the group would be eradicated in Afghanistan in 2017.
President Trump’s most senior military and foreign policy advisers have proposed a major shift in strategy in Afghanistan that would effectively put the United States back on a war footing with the Taliban.
The recent detonation of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast to dislodge the Islamic State’s caves and tunnels in eastern Afghanistan did not change the reality of the lost opportunities, mistakes and wild pitches the United States has witnessed in the country since 2001, but it did make a difference. The strike was indeed the “right munition for the right target” and a tactical military success, but it was also a hopeless reminder of America’s unfinished war in Afghanistan. While the strike introduced a new symbol to fighting the Afghan war, it also suggested a search for a new and realistic Afghan war strategy.
The convoy of MRAPs lumbered across the moonscape of central Helmand Province, the epicenter of America’s futile, half-century-long effort to remake Afghanistan in its own image. Generations of American developers and soldiers intended to transform this austere landscape into a breadbasket and bastion of democratic values. Instead, they created the world’s largest opium poppy plantation, the heartland of the thriving Taliban-led insurgency.