By Scott Taylor
Last Monday night, when U.S. President Donald Trump made his long-anticipated announcement regarding the war in Afghanistan, even he had to admit that he has his doubts about his chosen path. “My original instinct was to pull out,” said Trump, “and historically, I like following my instincts.”
Senior Pentagon and National Security advisors have instead managed to convince The Donald to ignore his inner voices and give his blessing to yet another continuation of the bloody occupation of Afghanistan.
This time will be different though as Trump assured the American public that under his guidance the U.S. military’s objective will be to win. Unlike his weak-kneed predecessors who attempted to build a nation in Afghanistan, the Trump-led warriors will simply focus on killing bad guys.
Turning their backs on the situation in Afghanistan, Trump claimed, would result in creating another failed state wherein international terrorists could plot and plan attacks against America.
While it is true that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was residing in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks, the truth is that there are presently a large number of failed states around the world where terrorist cells abound.
Ironically, many of these black holes of anarchy were created as a result of U.S. meddling and their ill-conceived campaign to eliminate terror. I refer to Libya, Iraq, and Syria where U.S. invasions, interference and subterfuge have destabilized huge swaths of territory and led to the creation of numerous fanatical factions such as Daesh (aka ISIS), al-Nusra and al-Qaeda-linked militias.
To stay in Afghanistan militarily in order to make America safe again would mean that the U.S. needs to begin planning similar occupations of Iraq, Libya, Syria and let’s throw Somalia in there as well.
Trump also said that his renewed commitment to Afghanistan was not a blank cheque, nor will it be open-ended. Unlike former President Barack Obama, Trump declined to put an exit date on the new mission as he insists that victory will be determined by achieving objectives. Of course, he declined to identify what exactly those objectives are.
To achieve his planned reversal of fortunes in the war, Trump will be deploying an additional 4,000 troops to boost the 8,400 U.S. soldiers already based in Afghanistan.
To put this in perspective, Obama’s surge strategy, aimed at winning the war once and for all, saw a troop increase of 30,000 soldiers, which brought the American total force deployed in country to over 100,000. Added to that number were an additional 40,000 international soldiers, including 3,500 Canadians. And let’s not forget the 400,000 Afghan security forces that NATO soldiers have been training since 2001.
Somehow Trump expects to accomplish victory with 12,400 troops when 140,000 NATO and U.S. soldiers failed?
Trump also indicated that the U.S. will continue to focus on the training of Afghans in order to make them self-sufficient. Despite every military apologist and pundit explaining to their audience that it takes time to build a military from scratch, the truth is that the best trainers in the world — including Canadian soldiers — have spent the past 16 years trying to make soldiers out of Afghan recruits. If it hasn’t worked yet — and it hasn’t — then it never will.
To get a sense of the futility of mentoring Afghan security forces I would highly recommend watching the VICE News documentary This is What Winning Looks Like. It is an excellent 90-minute exposé of the rampant drug use, sexual misconduct, corruption and lack of professionalism that embody both the Afghan Army and police forces.
Although the film was produced in 2013, I assure you that things have only gotten worse since the number of NATO and U.S. troops was greatly reduced over the past four years.
This is without a doubt the longest war in U.S. history. Some diehard Afghan war hawks will claim that the Korean War is a frozen conflict, and because the U.S. never withdrew, South Korea has blossomed into an economic dynamo. If U.S. troops were constantly being targeted by South Korean suicide bombers, they definitely would not have stayed there for 70 years.
Afghanistan will never be another South Korea, and there is a good reason that this rugged patch of Central Asia is known as the “Graveyard of Empires.” Trump missed his chance. He should have followed his instincts and pulled out of a war he can never win.