The Afghanistan War started in 2001 under the George W. Bush Administration in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The campaign was then quickly neglected in favor of the invasion, war, and reconstruction effort in Iraq. President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to end both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War then escalated the Afghanistan War to perpetuate a “responsible draw down” of both wars. The rise of the Islamic State and resurgence of the Taliban have, once again, threaten the security and stability of both nations. While the Pentagon now has the authority to set troops levels in both conflicts, the Afghanistan and Iraq policies of the Trump Administration are unclear.
Critics have chastised the Trump Administration for a lack of strategy in Afghanistan. A strategy cannot be developed until the mission objective is clearly defined. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the George W. Bush Administration had a broadly defined objective in both countries, yet failed to develop and implement a realistic strategy. Under the Obama Administration, the objective of both missions was to stabilize the security of both nations before a gradual withdrawal of US troops began. Today, the Pentagon is tasked with bolstering the security forces of both Afghanistan and Iraq, which entails a seemingly permanent training mission, yet the President’s decision to delegate the authority to set war policy invites mission creep.
The security situations in both Afghanistan and Iraq have, and continue, to deteriorate. If the US military objective is to secure both Afghanistan and Iraq, a strategy is needed to suppress insurgents. If the US military is supposed to withdraw from both conflicts, a far different strategy is needed. The real question is whether or not the US should continue to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the majority of Americans have sought the end of both conflicts for years, escalation is not something the American People want, thus the military objective is the withdrawal of US forces and not the deployment of more US forces. Quite frankly, corruption and dysfunction within the militaries and governments of Afghanistan and Iraq almost assuredly guaranteed the current situation.
Like the failed Vietnam War, the strategy of the Obama Administration could only offer Afghanistan and Iraq a reasonable chance at success once US troops withdrew. The most likely scenario has simply materialized. Reengaging insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq will only drag the US back into a war of attrition it cannot win. The only ones who can win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the Afghans and the Iraqis. Escalation on behalf of the US military will simply mean placing US forces in the same unwinnable war that nearly bankrupted the US with trillions of dollars in debt, strained US Special Forces to a breaking point, and bogged down the US military when it needed to focus on threats around the globe.
Looking at the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War in broader of US national security interests terms, neither conflict is affordable. Since the Arab Spring Revolutions, which have yet to be fully resolved, started in 2011, the security and stability of the entire Middle East has been threatened. In such an environment, the collapse of Iraq and Afghanistan are major problems due to the potential for instability to spread. Exhausting US military might in an effort to secure Iraq and Afghanistan is, however, futile when the US cannot also respond to others threats with such commitments, e.g. Syria and Libya. To boot, the US cannot risk its global interests to secure its relatively minor interests in the Middle East. America does, after all, have vital national security interests throughout the world. That said, the US and its allies have interests in securing the Middle East.
Outside of economic interests, which cannot be fully addressed in the face of unresolved civil unrest and security issues, the most pressing interest in the Middle East for America and the International Community is the need to address globalized terrorism. To address that interests, Middle East powers and their Peoples must be willing to fight for their own countries. Middle Eastern government must also be willing to address the social issues feeding violence. World powers, in turn, can play a support role, which will not entail a massive over-commitment of foreign forces. The US must focus on a regional anti-terrorism campaign, which avoids interference in sectarian civil wars. Moreover, the Trump Administration’s Afghanistan strategy must be a regional anti-terrorism strategy.
Read old posts