Parsing the President
The “New” Afghanistan Strategy

It’s a lot like the old Afghanistan strategy, but with Trumpian characteristics.

Published on: August 22, 2017
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  • Jeff77450

    I consider it likely that, like Vietnam, this war is unwinnable by any reasonable metric. What would winning look like? One answer might be the eradication of indigenous Islamic extremism and a government & populace that wouldn’t permit foreign Islamic extremism to operate there. An obvious problem is that Pashtun culture, which has been described as “Saudi Arabia on meth,” is very nearly the definition of Islamic extremism.

    I’m not qualified to say whether we should stay or leave. 9/11 required a robust response in Afghanistan but with the benefit of hindsight GWB should’ve made the mission-statement to be something like inflict as much damage as you can in sixty to ninety days and then we’re out of there. That would’ve sent a firm message to the world of this is what happens if you allow terrorists to use your country as a base.

    Afghanistan probably isn’t winnable but perhaps a small silver lining is the training value for career officers & NCOs. In additional to the training value in the logistics of maintaining a force nearly half way around the world, Afghanistan has become the de facto mountain warfare training center comparable to the Jungle Operations Training Center that we used to have in Panama. (I don’t know if it’s still there). My $0.02.

    • Kevin

      Putting the Pashtuns back in charge and then spending untold blood and treasure determining how they ran the place was Bush’s problem. Had we overthrown the Taliban and left their hereditary enemies from the Northern Alliance and other assorted warlords in the catbird seat it would have served as a lesson that if you sponsor terrorism against the US, your enemies will run your country.

    • ltlee1

      According to a recent Washington Post article, Trump was convinced by a 1972 black and white photo showing 3 Kabul teenage girls wearing mini-skirts implying Afghans had high affinity to Western culture. Of course, any such affinity was brutally suppressed by the evil Taliban.

      If similar photos surface in the near future, the obvious conclusion is that Western culture is taking hold once again. Today’s miniskirt would naturally lead to western democracy with check and balance government tomorrow. A good enough criteria, what do you think?

      • Jeff77450

        I’ve seen that photo. Even if those were, in fact, Afghan citizens it’s anecdotal, not hard data. I would love for the undeveloped world to do what Japan did and go from feudalism–with “knights” no less–to modernism in the space of a few generations but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Some cultures embrace & pursue progress and others resist it with their dying breath.

        • D4x

          The NYPost ran that article 08 22 with this headline: “This pic convinced Trump to keep US troops in Afghanistan” By Mark Moore August 22, 2017 10:48am | Updated 8:52 p.m. “The photo was among the arguments”

          I just went back to copy the URL, and the Update @ 8:52 p.m. had a totally different second half, with the details of the actual deployment. Online news is certainly changing!
          Anyway, the photo is real. 1972 was before King Mohammed Zahir Shah was deposed on July 17, 1973.
          It is true that Afghanistan was peaceful and made progress for decades.
          Because of the prevailing myth it has ‘always been unstable, repressive, Islamist tribes at war with each other’,
          I assume that photo got Trump’s attention.

          In 1956, SCOTUS William O Douglas and his wife drove from Karachi to Kabul
          to Mazar-I-Sharif to Herat to Iran in a station wagon. No problem.
          His travel memoir: “West of the Indus” indicated they took the northern ring road
          because the south was more conservative, and Mrs. Douglas was
          also the mechanic for the station wagon. A fascinating travel memoir published in 1957: 75,000 mile road trip from Karachi, Pakistan to Istanbul, Turkey.
          (Iran was NOT safe for Americans, let alone a SCOTUS, in 1956.)
          Afghanistan is a complex culture. The Pashtuns are tribal confederations, which is why they do not all support the Taliban’s fundamentalism. A lot of refugees who spent years in Peshawar, Pakistan have returned to Afghanistan.
          Peshawar was once the Afghan King’s winter home.

          Probably not mini-skirts, more like this, with trousers, March, 2017:

          In other words, the Afghans do not want the burkhas and public stonings in stadiums to return.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Aside from avenging 9/11 and avenging Bin Laden, the original mission vision was for Afghanistan to turn secular via elections—– essentially turn left toward human rights and away from what Islamic tribalism otherwise provides for a society. Bush hoped for that result, I think, and Obama too, even as evidence piled up in both of those administrations that any such objective was elusive even with massive spending help on our part. Now, in the face of 15 years of frustration, the mission is probably going to be only whatever our military men believe can stem deterioration from a strategic point of view. Trump appears to have acceded to following their advice and initiatives—–really about the only thing he can do. Our past “nation-building” there has not really worked, causing Republicans such as Trump to just want out and to want to diss “nation-building” anyway for political points. And THEN, here come the generals explaining (perhaps correctly) why abandoning the place is not a good idea. So, we’re not.

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