The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Update for Tuesday, August 22, 2017


In a nationally televised address, the president says some words. He was purportedly announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan, but he neglected to say what it is:

After what he described as a lengthy and exhaustive deliberation culminating in a meeting with his war cabinet at Camp David, Mr. Trump said that he had been convinced that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda.” Speaking to a military audience at a base outside Washington, Mr. Trump declared, “In the end, we will win.”

But he did not define what victory would look like, nor did he explain how his path would be different from what he labeled the failed strategies of previous presidents.
He did, however, say that he would send more troops, although he did not say how many, nor did he say exactly what they would do. He also made an open-ended commitment for them to remain, since 16 years hasn't been long enough. He said nice things about India and not so nice things about Pakistan, although he did not say what he would do to change Pakistan's behavior.

In case you want to know what those U.S. troops are going to do in Afghanistan, possibly forever, UN ambassador Nikki Haley says you won't know, it's a secret.

She said the military operation there will be different than in the past 16 years. "What you’re not going to hear are the details" about U.S. tactics in the South Asian country, Haley said. "In the past we’ve had administrations that have given out everything we’re doing, when we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. You’re not going to hear that now."

It should be noted that not all Republicans are behind this. Sen. Rand Paul writes:

The Trump administration is increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and, by doing so, keeping us involved even longer in a 16-year-old war that has long since gone past its time. The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war. It’s time to come home now.
Conservative commentator Daniel Larison isn't too pleased either:

Unless the U.S. intends to make Afghanistan its permanent ward and wishes to be at war there forever, there is no compelling reason for a continued American military presence. Nothing in Trump’s speech provided such a reason. He embraced the sunk cost fallacy (“our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made”), and ignored that throwing away more lives on a failed war is far worse than cutting our losses. He indulged the safe haven myth, according to which the U.S. must police countries on the other side of the earth without end for fear that they might give shelter to terrorists if we do not. These are all very familiar and cliched assumptions by now, and they are wrong. We can’t rationally weigh costs and benefits of a war that can’t end unless it somehow redeems the losses already suffered, and Afghanistan is never going to be made secure enough at an acceptable cost to eliminate the possibility that some part of its territory might play host to jihadists. Trump calls his approach “principled realism,” but as usual it is neither principled nor realist.




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