Trump’s Meaningless ‘Shift’ in Afghanistan Policy

Trump delivered a primetime address on Monday night to announce a “new” strategy in Afghanistan, the longest war in our nation’s history. It turned out to be a vague bunch of nothing, a small increase in troops that won’t make much difference and a promise to evaluate based on “conditions on the ground.”


Trump’s plan involves a modest increase of several thousand troops and the president said success would be determined by conditions on the ground and not dictated by a specific timeline. The change in policy laid out during a prime-time address from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va., is the result of a lengthy policy review within his administration over how to proceed in the nation’s longest war.

“Our troops will fight to win,” he said. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”

Gosh, who would ever have thought of that? This is just drivel. “We’re going to destroy the terrorists” is not a strategy, it’s a goal. And there’s nothing in this “new” policy that helps achieve that goal. 4000 troops? Not enough to make any difference at all in controlling the Taliban. The problem, as it has been all along, is that the Afghani government simply can’t sustain a campaign to keep the Taliban from taking control of territory in that country. 4000 troops will do little to nothing to aid in that effort.

An assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration was quoted by the Post as saying the policy is “probably pretty close to what a Hillary Clinton would do.” Trump promised a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan during the campaign, much like George W. Bush promised less foreign intervention and no more nation-building in 2000, only to turn around and launch multiple wars at a cost of trillions.

I mean, part of me can sympathize because there are no easy solutions in Afghanistan. If we leave entirely, the Taliban probably retakes control of the country and goes back to harboring terrorist groups and providing them with official cover. But we have neither the public support nor the political will to commit to going back in there in a serious way to keep the Taliban in check. So we’re stuck. But policies like this only ensure that we will remain stuck because they are designed only to maintain the status quo. Bush left this war to Obama, who has left it to Trump. And at this rate, the next president will still be having to deal with an essentially untenable situation in 2020, and perhaps even beyond that.

Though to be fair, perhaps we should be glad that he didn’t announce that they were turning the war over to Erik Prince’s mercenaries. Or just sending them barges full of thoughts and prayers.

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