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Afghanistan Is Now Trump’s War

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MateenK View Drop Down
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    Posted: 10-Mar-2017 at 10:05pm

Afghanistan Is Now Trump’s War

Before the White House responds to the Pentagon’s latest request for a troop surge in Afghanistan to counter insurgent forces that now control substantial parts of the country, it would serve administration officials well to examine the long history of deluded thinking about what could be accomplished if the United States committed more troops to the effort.
Back in 2007, Gen. Dan McNeill, the top commander in Afghanistan, pleaded for reinforcements to the force of 26,000 troops he led, arguing it was “vitally important that the success Afghanistan has achieved not be allowed to slip away through neglect or lack of political will.” His successor, Gen. David McKiernan, echoed that call the following year, asserting: “We are not losing, but we are winning slower in some places than others.”
In 2009, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander, painted a more dire picture, saying that failure to send reinforcements could lead to an “outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” That warning led the Obama administration to increase  the American troop presence in Afghanistan to 100,000 from less than 30,000, and embrace a nation-building and counterinsurgency strategy that was meant to turn the war around in a few years.
Those efforts failed or fell well short of their aims. Afghanistan remains in the grip of a resolute insurgency and a kleptocratic, dysfunctional governing elite. The Afghan state has been rapidly losing control of districts across the country to Taliban factions and Afghan forces are getting killed and injured at a rate American commanders call unsustainable.
As the Trump administration settles in, American commanders are making the case for another troop surge. Testifying before the Senate last month, Gen. John Nicholson, the current top commander in Afghanistan, said America’s longest war is in a “stalemate” and lamented what he called a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops. There are currently 13,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including about 8,400 Americans. On Thursday, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of Centcom, said military leaders are drawing up a new strategy that will require more American troops.
White House officials and members of Congress should consider this request with skepticism. The challenges that have stymied American generals in Afghanistan for years — including havens for insurgents in Pakistan, endemic corruption and poor leadership in the Afghan military — remain unsolved. In the absence of a dramatically different approach to those problems, any new reinforcements can only be expected to shore up the fledgling Afghan government for a year or two.
Sending troops into harm’s way is among the most difficult responsibilities of a commander in chief. Yet there is little evidence that President Trump and his national security team have given the matter substantial consideration since his inauguration. Mr. Trump in 2013 favored a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling the war a waste of money. Last year, he said he would stay in Afghanistan, although, he said, “I hate doing it so much.”
Before he agrees to increased troop numbers, Mr. Trump would be wise to order a full assessment of the war to consider whether sending in more Americans can reasonably be expected to succeed in weakening an insurgency that has sprung back after earlier increases of American force.
Unless the Pentagon delivers a strategy that is significantly different from previous ones, Mr. Trump would be sending more men and women into a deadly war zone while, at best, only temporarily delaying Afghanistan’s descent into further chaos and violence.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/opinion/afghanistan-is-now-trumps-war.html?_r=1
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