After months of delay and an apparently “tortured search” to come up with a “winning” strategy for Afghanistan, what President Donald Trump will announce Monday evening looks like it will be nothing more than an extension of the failed strategy that has kept U.S. forces in the country for 16 years with no end in sight.
“Tonight, the American people will hear again the great lie about the progress the American military once made in Afghanistan after ‘the Afghan Surge,’ just as we often hear the lie about how the American military had ‘won’ in Iraq.”—Matthew Hoh, Center for International Policy
The announcement would represent a total abandonment of Trump’s repeated calls before he was president that U.S. troops should come home and, based on reports of his plan, will represent a continuation of a failed strategy taken by his two predecessors that will likely worsen security for ordinary Afghans.
The president and his advisors have been weighing options regarding how to proceed in the 16-year-old war for months. Military leaders including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster have pushed for a troop increase. But while war hawks claim that a withdrawal would leave openings for the Taliban and ISIS to win back control of the region, the Taliban in a recent open letter argued that the only thing driving the war is the continued presence of U.S. troops and allied forces. Trump aides including former top adviser Steve Bannon also reportedly met with Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater, to discuss the possibility of sending contractors to Afghanistan to privatize the war.
During the Obama administration and the 2016 campaign, Trump frequently criticized the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Former State Department official Matthew Hoh, who resigned from his position in protest of the Obama administration’s announcement that it would increase troop levels in Afghanistan in 2009, wrote Monday that Trump’s speech would likely include the same falsehoods that have allowed the two previous administrations to rationalize the continuation of the conflict:
The president’s actions in the conflict this year have included an airstrike in northeastern Afghanistan in April, in which the military dropped the “Mother of All Bombs,” the United States’ most powerful non-nuclear weapon, on suspected ISIS targets, killing less than 100 fighters.
In June, Trump authorized Defense Secretary General James Mattis to send up to 3,900 additional troops into the country, but has thus far supplied the military with no clear sense of what a potential troop surge would accomplish. NATO allies have also declined to send more men and women to the region without clear directives from Trump.
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