Washington (GPA) – The Afghan war is now old enough to drive in the US and shows no signs of being over.
After several years of criticism leveled at the US war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump has finally announced a decision for the country’s future on Monday night. The new plan is Trump’s first surge of 4,000 US troops overseas in a war many people in the west rarely think of any more.
In his speech on Monday, Trump also called on fellow NATO member nations to commit more troops in proportional to the US.The current US presence in Afghanistan stands around 8,400 soldiers on the ground.
Trump also called out Afghanistan’s neighbor and US ally Pakistan for providing “safe havens” to the same terrorist organizations currently fighting the Afghan government. Trump told Pakistani leaders that they’d have “much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”
This all runs counter to previous remarks by Trump before winning the 2016 presidential election. In the past, Trump had called for a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying in 2013 that “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan.”
Now the tone is only slightly different, expressed by Trump’s worries that a withdrawal would create a vacuum to be filled by radicals similarly to Iraq. Trump attributed this to the realities he’s faced since taking office saying that “I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
Trump did strike a similar tone to his previous rhetoric that the Afghan government was “ungrateful” for the amount of US resources invested in the war. He warned the Afghani government that this new deployment did not signal a “blank check” for Kabul and that “the American people expect to see real reforms and real results.”
In an effort to throw some concession to his anti-interventionist base, Trump did promise that these new troops are only intended to win a war and not for “nation building.” This ignores the fact that most US forces already in the country are doing just that by propping up the US-installed government in Kabul.
Reactions to Trump’s ‘New’ Plan
Despite his attempts to distance himself from the neoconservative Republicans he ran against, who favor ideas like building client states, these figures also came out to cheer on this week’s decision. Establishment Republicans like Paul Ryan were the first to applaud the decision, but most ominously, one man in favor of the new deployment was Senator John McCain of Arizona.
McCain released a statement praising Trump after he heard the news saying “I believe the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat.” McCain believes this is the right move and may end the war if Trump can keep “the right level of effort, in the right places, with the right authorities and resources to see this conflict through to success.”
The infamously crooked Afghan government also praised Trump’s decision. Former US citizen and now Afghan president Ashraf Ghani thanked Trump for his “affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism.” Ghani did not mention his government’s incompetence at aiding the US fight, complete lack of preparedness of his own military and rampant corruption still ongoing in his government.
Whether these new troops will actually be enough to turn the tide of a war that seems pretty un-winnable at this point remains to be seen. The main US adversary in the country – the Taliban – sure doesn’t think so. They have issued a letter to Trump urging him to rethink his plan and instead pull out of the Afghan war. Warning of a vehement reaction, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: “if America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century.”
Also published on Medium.