For sixteen years and to some accounts more, the US has been involved in a stalemate in Afghanistan. Neither winning, nor losing simply pouring more tax dollars down the tubes. We have a tiger by the tail; but now that we have engaged, how do we stop and evaluate our efforts as a success or failure?
This is what the Trump administration is left to deal with after billions have been lost, soldiers killed or maimed, equipment stolen or sold to insurgents, and dishonorable or plain stupid, dangerous decisions, or indecisive attitudes by the past administration.
“As Afghan Stalemate Grinds On, Trump Mulls Additional Troops” by Associated Press author,
Robert Burns in Military.com, on May 7, 2017 takes a hard look at the problem.
From long-term fighting fatigue to high battlefield casualties, the Afghan soldiers are breaking down. They have seesawed so long between wins and losses that they are fast losing sight of why they even should continue to fight. Prospects for any kind of negotiated peace settlement with the Taliban is falling further behind every day.
The insurgents failure to capture and hold a major city has in no way diminished their control or influence in the region and like a oozing wound infection, their poison is reaching out into ever more territory infecting every place they move through.
According to an article from 2016 by Steven Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for the Defense Policy at Council on Foreign Relations,
“security has deteriorated sharply since the U.S. ended its official combat role in 2014, however, and Nicholson is expected to favor slower U.S. drawdowns. If so, the general is right. But what’s needed isn’t a slower timetable for withdrawals – it’s the end of timetables altogether.
“The Taliban have little incentive to negotiate a peace deal and “the battlefield trend is against it.”
The U.S. objective in Afghanistan is not to leave; it is to end the war on terms Americans and Afghans can live with.
The range of plausible outcomes in Afghanistan is now very narrow. The Afghan government could lose the war outright, or it can negotiate a compromise settlement with the major insurgent factions. There is no longer any meaningful prospect to defeat the Taliban. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are barely holding the line; they are not going to take the offensive and drive the Taliban from the country.
According to a Pentagon policy official it is possible that President Donald Trump should be receiving a proposed new approach to the war soon.
Trump walked into a mess in foreign affairs and in particular the Middle East when he became President. Military actions have increased and continued all across the area even though little has been reported in the media. Trump called for significant changes to how the U.S. fights IS in Iraq and Syria, yet he has not really spoken much on Afghanistan.
The Pentagon is reviewing the possibility of sending more troops, as the U.S. commander in Afghanistan requested, mainly for training and advising.
The larger questions before doing that though ought to be:
-what they would do;
-why bother when those trained prior to now either defected to the opposition or hasn’t the capacity to take over the country and lead;
-how would they fit into a broader strategy to actually stabilize Afghanistan; and,
-even more importantly, how much longer the US should even be involved in, not just this country, but the entire region?
The cost in our soldiers lives and our tax dollars versus the obviously never ending lack of stability or leadership has to be strongly considered. The region has been a hotbed for thousands of years. Does the world, in particular the US, plan to continue this warring mode for another thousand years?
Center for Strategic and International Studies defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman, said:
Afghan forces aren’t capable of securing the country. Unless Trump adopts “a far more decisive approach,” security could collapse “either slowly and painfully over years or as a result of some shattering military defeat or critical political power struggle at the top that divides the security forces and the country.”
Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, wants an infusion of U.S. and allied troops to bolster support for the Afghan army. However, his request may have to take a back seat to a broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops when these matters are discussed at a NATO summit May 25.
The war is now in its third U.S. presidency with tens of billions of US dollars and money from other UN countries. We have used that money supposedly to equip, mentor, and support Afghan security forces but to what level of success?
While Afghans have become more effective in recent years, breaking the Taliban’s grip on much of the territory has barely been achieved. Right now the current government appears to be losing ground — barely controlling even half of its territories.
And yet, we cannot forget the many women fighting or suffering under archaic attitudes, nor families still there who have been suffering either. Today’s FOX news article highlights that there are still some people working in Afghanistan in the shadows to help women and girls who have suffered horrible abuses simply because they are female.
I think the key is the sentence from Biddle — “little incentive”. The choices Trump and his military advisors ultimately settle own should hopefully provide that incentive, either as a three or four pronged assault through weapons, education, and economy or whatever means works best; but regardless, this needs to end. Our time, our soldiers, our tax dollars can no longer support such a useless endeavor. The US has many other problems to face, most importantly those within our own country.