After President Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, we saw yet another reversal from the campaign promises once made, via imminent troop increases to this godforsaken land.
Some may criticize this shift as unfaithful, whereas some may laud it as demonstrating necessary flexibility.
But the pertinent, unanswered questions remain: will it work, stabilize Afghanistan, and eventually pull America out of its longest war?
In fairness to President Trump, he inherited an extremely difficult situation in Afghanistan. It was not his decision to invade this wild land, nor his decision to begin the process of nation building, nor his decision to pursue an endless set of military/ political objectives. President Trump knows that if the United States entirely pulls out; the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations may again rip Afghanistan apart. Further, he recognises the trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives that have already been invested into this war. So to withdraw from Afghanistan in its present state, will mean those sacrifices have been committed in vain.
On present policy, it is encouraging to see President Trump discuss engaging India to assist in the region, and to move towards ending Pakistan’s shielding of Islamic terrorists.
Further, that the President is speaking of ‘winning’, alone seems better than the seemingly aimless benchmarks of his predecessors.
However as stated earlier, Afghanistan has been an incredibly costly war and terrorist groups still ravage the country.
So despite President Trump’s rhetoric, it is worth pondering what ‘winning’ exactly looks like?
Is ‘winning’ when Afghanistan becomes a fully functioning democracy? Or is it when all Islamist elements have been crushed? For now, the answers remain vague.
Afghanistan is not called the ‘graveyard of empires’ for nothing. The Mongolian empire, the Mughal empire, the British empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, have all suffered defeats by waging war within this inhospitable territory. With the nation’s rugged terrain, isolation, severe weather conditions, and various ethnic groups, it is an extraordinarily complex nation to exercise governance over.
Moreover, since ISIS’ emergence terrorists have used more sophisticated tools of engagement: as the internet, knives, and cars are now more influential than bombs in wreaking havoc across the West. So continuing fighting a conventional war in Afghanistan to combat terrorism, when there are alternative, less expensive means, is questionable policy.
While the establishment will likely support President Trump’s Afghanistan policy, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.
Thus, we can only hope that President Trump has a unique capacity to end this 16 year deadlock.
So while I remain sceptical, only the passage of time will ultimately determine the success of President Trump’s policies for Afghanistan.
For 2 contrasting perspectives on the President’s recent announcement see:
A positive assessment with Sean Hannity and Newt Gringrich:
A critical assessment with Tucker Carlson and Erik Prince: