The U.S. announces that it will ratchet up troop numbers and operations in Afghanistan.
Before becoming president, Donald Trump insisted that the first thing he would do upon his arrival in the White House would be to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. However, in another of those 180-degree U-turns that we have grown used to, he has now announced that, far from withdrawing the 8,400 troops deployed in the country, he will increase the number of both troops and the scale of operations.
The motives driving this decision are easy to understand. After nearly 16 years of conflict – the longest in U.S. military history – with 2,403 American soldiers killed and billions of dollars spent, Trump’s main military advisers, with the backing of the Pentagon, have managed to convince him that a full American withdrawal would leave Afghanistan in the same precarious situation as Iraq in 2011, paving the way for the Taliban to take control and for the country to be converted into a sanctuary for terrorists from which – as occurred with 9/11 – attacks will be planned against the U.S.
As happened with Obama during his time in office, and with George W. Bush before him, another U.S. president has opted for the least-worst option – prolonging the war in the knowledge that there will be no trace of a military victory, nor an Afghan state capable of looking after its own affairs, nor a truly credible date of withdrawal on the horizon.
Afghanistan has been a disaster for every world power that has tried to dominate it, be it the British Empire, the USSR or the U.S. It has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is impossible to control without the participation of the Pashtun people and active collaboration with Pakistan – the two elements the Taliban relies on. Given this, Trump’s statement that he is not aiming to nation-build but simply to “kill terrorists” is both bravado and proof that the U.S. continues to commit the same errors time and time again.