The Obama administration was more willing to shorten the Afghanistan war and was more interested in reducing the number of troops from Afghanistan or their complete withdrawal. However, the Trump administration seems more interested in winning the Afghan war
“FIRST aim of war is to win, Second is to prevent defeat, Third is to shorten and last is to maintain just and durable peace”. The colours of this famous quote by Maurice Hankey (British civil servant during the inter war period) are reflected in President Trump’s strategy towards Afghanistan. The United States failed to achieve its first aim of war because the Secretary Defence, Mattis, said in a testimony to the US Armed Services Committee that the US was not winning the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban are now controlling the 40 percent of Afghanistan territory, which echoes that the US is unable to prevent its defeat at the hands of the Taliban. The third aim is to shorten the war and the decision to increase additional 4,000 troops in Afghanistan has also left the third aim of war as “dumb”. The last option to achieve a durable peace has never been seen in any US administration.
President George W Bush aimed soon after the invasion to prevent a defeat and eliminate the Taliban as well as terrorism from Afghanistan and he was not interested to shorten the war. The Obama administration was more willing to shorten the Afghanistan war and was more interested in reducing the number of troops from Afghanistan or their complete withdrawal. However, the Trump administration seems more interested in winning the Afghan war.
Since November 2016 after winning the US Presidential election, Trump has not reached a final verdict regarding the US policy towards the 16-year long Afghan war. During his election campaign Trump enchanted the slogan of ‘America First’ and said that he would end the longest war in Afghanistan, while gaining a swift victory. Miraculously, this has not happened till yet and there is a long series of delays in Trump administration towards offering a comprehensive, delicate and a balanced strategy towards Afghanistan. Afghanistan is an intricate maze in which White House is ensnared to find an end to this convoluted puzzle.
Historically, Afghanistan is regarded as a ‘Graveyard of Empires’, but for the Trump administration it is a maze in which, the administration itself is divided over the implementation of a strategy for the future of Afghanistan war. Increasing troops, indulging military contractors, limiting financial loss in war, withdrawal or exploiting minerals – what’s on the US menu for future of the Afghanistan strategy? This question has created a rift within the White House towards a consequential delay in the US strategy on Afghanistan. Such a strategic delay by the Trump administration leads towards a hostile civil-military relations in the United States.
General Nicholson in the US Armed Services Committee said, “War in Afghanistan is in stalemate; to break this stalemate it is required to increase few thousand more troops in Afghanistan.” Meanwhile, President Trump agreed to increase 4,000 additional troops, but this decision is still not clear. Defence Secretary Mattis also agrees on the notion that additional troops in Afghanistan can ensure a swift victory for the US and help to prevent defeat. However, in his recent statement Mattis viewed that the US has failed in Afghanistan and only political settlement could help the US to win the war in Afghanistan. It was said in a New York Times report that Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and the White House Chief Strategist suggested that the policies regarding Afghanistan should be decided by the private military contractors. Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, and Finsberg, owner of Dyn Corp International, were chosen to handle the Afghanistan war. The Advisor to President Trump and Chief Strategist of the Trump administration want to handle Afghanistan through private military contractors, because Jared Kushner and Steve Banon, Trump’s key advisor, have close ties with the US Arms military contractor Lockheed Martin, and Kushner secured a $110billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia along with this company.
Trump in his recent statements said that since there was no progress in the Afghanistan war and “we are not actually winning a war in Afghanistan, it is important to fire the US Commander, General Nicholson, from Afghanistan.” He also suggested withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in his recent statements. This implies that Trump is preoccupied with his advisor’s and chief strategist’s decision to install private military contractors in Afghanistan instead of increasing troops. There is an internal rift going on between Pentagon and White House which is the actual reason for delay in defining the US strategy towards Afghanistan. Trump’s reluctance to commit to a new strategy reflects the paucity of good options in Afghanistan and the dim prospects for peace. The intricate maze created in the Trump administration is working as venom which would engulf Afghanistan’s stability. As outlined by the Trump administration that the US would design a regional strategy towards Afghanistan which would encompass Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries as well, but still the strategy remains unclear and under dark.
Moreover, the disunion in the White House is not only confined to Afghanistan, but it also enact with Pakistan. Nicholson, McMaster and Lisa Curtis, favour taking a strong hand with Pakistan to deal with the Taliban militants using that country as a base from which to plot attacks in Afghanistan. On the other side are the State Department officials and others at the Pentagon, including Dunford, who take a broader view of Pakistan's strategic importance and are less convinced that harsh actions will secure more cooperation from Islamabad. The Trump administration is exploring a new and much harder approach towards Pakistan. Potential responses under discussion include expanding the US drone strikes, redirecting aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally.
Division at political level creates unrest and instability in Afghanistan. The tense security situation created by the IS militants and the Taliban in Afghanistan has been increased as there is no clear policy by the Trump administration. Trump and his administration is seeking for options such as increase in number of troops, privatization of Afghan war and withdrawal which creates more instability and unrest in Afghanistan. Moreover, the US by itself never strived for stability in Afghanistan, because instability and prolonging war in Afghanistan secures personal political interests of White House in such an intricate maze.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Bakkar
Published in Daily Times, August 12th 2017.