August 22nd, 2017

Trump’s Afghan strategy

Last night President Trump gave a speech outlining his policy on Afghanistan. The text can be found here.

In considering what to do in Afghanistan, Trump was in a bind. Actually, it’s not just Trump who’s been in a bind; Afghanistan has presented a knotty problem for several previous administrations. It’s dangerous to not be there, it’s dangerous and frustrating to be there. Once there, pulling out is a terrible option. How important is Afghanistan to the fight against Islamic terror, and how far should we go to secure it or to attempt to change it? Is it possible to fight terrorists there (and/or prevent more of them finding a haven there, as they did before 9/11) without some sort of “nation-building”? And what is “nation-building” anyway?

Trump’s bind also was a result of his own campaign rhetoric, which gave many people the impression he would be pulling out of Afghanistan. He referred to this in his speech last night by saying “My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts.”

Funny thing, though; I just did a search and couldn’t find any campaign speech in which he unequivocally said he intended to pull out of Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean he didn’t say it; it just means that I couldn’t find it in a quick search. What I did find was at least somewhat in line with what he declared in his speech last night. Here, for example, are some quotes from a speech Trump delivered exactly a year ago, August of 2016:

Donald Trump said Monday [August 2016] that U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been an “absolute failure” and promised to reset foreign policy away from nation-building and regime change if elected president…

“It is now time for a new approach. Our current strategy of nation-building and regime change is a proven absolute failure,” Trump said. “We have created the vacuums that allow terrorism to grow and thrive.”…

…More than $100 billion has also been spent rebuilding Afghanistan since 2002, with most of the money going to police and the military.

Trump said he would bring that work to a “swift and decisive” end.

His approach will first focus on building global support to halt the spread of Islamic extremism as expressed by the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and other groups. That will include joint military operations, increased intelligence sharing and cyberwarfare.

Somewhat different perhaps from what he said last night, but not all that different, and most of the difference was in emphasis and degree.

Here are some more details from Trump’s announcements last night:

Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on….

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome…

We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

That first sentence is something I (and many others) have been wanting for a long, long time, and is just common sense. The rest sounds like semantics to me, because we haven’t been nation-building in Afghanistan for many years. We’ve never had a full-scale occupation in Afghanistan, and there never was any commitment to that on the part of the US, even under Bush. Most definitely there’s been no stomach for it among the American people or in Congress. So even if Trump was inclined to want to do it (which he’s not), it’s off the table for those reasons alone.

However, there is really no way to intervene in Afghanistan without some form of “nation-building,” even if it’s minimal. By encouraging the fight against terrorists there and shoring up the present government, we are influencing the nation and its government in a certain direction:

Trump did not specify troop levels on Monday, but White House officials say the U.S. will deploy about 4,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan, many of them in a training role to help stand up wobbly Afghan security forces.

Those “wobbly Afghan security forces” are part of the nation we have already “built” there as a result of all our interventions since 9/11, which began (remember?) when the Taliban were in control of the country and engaged in harboring al Qaeda and blowing up Buddhist statues in their spare time.

“Nation-building” has become a disapproved-of buzzword, something a politician must be seen to be against these days without really needing to define it in any detail—just as “neocon” has become an epithet on both sides, with people using it in whatever way they wish (I’ve dealt with those issues before, here, as well as in my series that begins here).

As Paul Mirengoff points out, “it has been a while since we have done any serious nation-building in Afghanistan.” I would go even further and say that while I think we engaged in “serious,” or at least semi-serious, nation-building in Iraq (and the effort there wasn’t going all that badly until Obama pulled the plug on it), our nation-building in Afghanistan was never as intense. And neither effort involved anything like the commitment of a full-scale occupation (which I’m not recommending, by the way).

Other changes Trump announced in his speech last night included:

We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond…

We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately…

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India…

I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.

These seem to me to be excellent ideas.

I’ve long thought that it is wishful thinking to believe we can disengage from these places at this point or in the near future. However, that sort of wishful thinking is indulged in by most liberals and by some in the isolationist wing of the right. It is an attractive but unrealistic and impossible suggestion, and we saw the consequences of such withdrawal when Obama left an Iraq that was substantially pacified but which required an American presence to sustain that state. What followed was a disaster for Iraq and also for the world, including the Western world and Europe in particular.

55 Responses to “Trump’s Afghan strategy”

  1. miklos000rosza Says:

    I have faith in Sec Def James Mattis.

    Yes, I know. “Faith.”

  2. expat Says:

    Too many people think that nation building means making another country in our image. Quite frankly, if foreigners watch CNN International, I can’t imagine why anyone would want a country full of racists, Nazis, Antifa, and snowflakes, to say nothing of transgender bathroom laws. Maybe if the media could show a more honest pictures of the US, some might pick out some things that work like our volunteerism and charity works.

    I’m with you, Neo, on liking what Trump is doing about Afghanistan.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I am not at all optimistic. You cannot defeat an enemy you refuse to identify. You cannot do for others what they can and should do for themselves. There’s a reason why the Afghanistan government is rife with corruption and cannot defeat the Taliban.

    That reason is based in Afghanistan’s societal infrastructure. That infrastructure is tribal and Islamic. Islam’s most fundamental theological tenets as found in the Qur’an, Hadiths and Suras support the Taliban not the corrupt government in Kabul.

    Trump changing the ROEs will allow our troops to be much more effective but slaying cannon fodder has limited utility when the source of the conflict is ignored.

    Placing increased pressure on Pakistan also increases the risk of ‘rogue’ internal elements finally getting nukes into the hands of jihadist elements.

    This new ‘strategy’ has McMaster’s hands all over it. It will possibly achieve some temporary gains but in the long run it will be an abysmal failure.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Of course it might be a failure.

    But it might not. And what are the alternatives? That’s the point I’m making. I see this as the best of the possible alternatives.

  5. huxley Says:

    The Trump campaign’s foreign policy always seemed to be a kind of sitting down while standing up.

    The US is going to be a strong and powerful force in the world unlike on Obama’s watch.

    The US is going to forget the rest of the world and fix America’s problems.

    I guess there are ways to min-max those goals so they are not contradictory.

    I suspect that stuff sounded good on the campaign trail but hadn’t been thought through — like the repeal and replace of Obamacare.

  6. Michael Says:

    “The US is going to forget the rest of the world and fix America’s problems.”

    The US us not going “to forget the rest of the world and fix America’s problems.”

    Th US is not going to blindly embark on solutions to the world’s problems that that are a serious determent to the US. Just like other nations.

    What is so hard about that concept?

  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo,

    “Of course it might be a failure. But it might not.”

    It is as certain to be a failure, as were Chamberlain’s efforts with Hitler. This is so because a ‘strategy’ that reuses to face the actual reality of a conflict will always be a failure.

    “And what are the alternatives? That’s the point I’m making. I see this as the best of the possible alternatives.”

    I could suggest and have before an alternative strategy that I continue to believe would work were it not currently a political nonstarter.

    Looking at the alternatives that are politically viable, I can see only one; immediately pull out of Afghanistan. Knowing full well that the Taliban will take over and that they will then once again offer refuge and succor to jihadist groups.

    Sooner or later that is what we are going to do, the only question is how many more lives and how much more treasure we will sacrifice to a losing proposition.

    When we do pull out, we should of course publicly announce that if the Taliban return to offering safe havens to terrorist groups that we will bomb their bases out of existence using whatever level of destruction is required, which will include nukes if needed.

    Of course, nukes may only be used as retaliation for a nuclear attack upon us. So we’ll have to lose a few cities before it will be politically acceptable to use them.

    Humanity has yet to learn a difficult lesson; when mass deaths are certain, acting sooner results in much less death than acting later.

    Hard lessons are painful and this one is going to be a doozy.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Pulling out of Afghanistan, as you suggest, would be an even greater failure, so I have no idea why you would consider it better.

    We have a relatively small presence there as it is, even if we increase troops by a few thousand. As in Iraq, a small presence offers an ounce of prevention—much better than a pound of cure if we leave and have to resort to the sort of thing you describe.

    And of course we can both suggest possibly better alternatives that are not politically viable. So what?

    What you are suggesting would also send a larger message, which is that we have no staying power at all and cannot be trusted. A small presence in Afghanistan counters that message at least somewhat.

  9. John Guilfoyle Says:

    GB – Absolute agreement with your diagnosis & mostly with your “what next?”

    I would only add that after we pull out & lay down the stipulations you have outlined we state unequivocally from this point forward, there will be no immigration to the US from any Muslim-majority country in which we can demonstrate a jihadist support network exists.

    The “ounce of prevention” strategy would possibly have worked in Iraq where you could see the beginnings of self-governance. 0 of course threw that away to the ersatz “JV team.” Afghanistan is no Iraq & it likely will never be…for the very reasons you described.

    Isolate it, quarantine it, & leave it the hell alone.

  10. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo,

    Pulling out of Afghanistan would be an admission of failure. But isn’t a refusal to admit failure an even bigger one?

    “As in Iraq, a small presence offers an ounce of prevention”

    That’s true. The problem is there’s every prospect of a never ending commitment to maintaining that ounce of prevention because there’s nothing in that “small presence” that will substantively affect the causal factors that are responsible for the ‘intransigence’ we’ve encountered in M.E. societies.

    That might be an acceptable compromise were the aggression we face static but it is not. So when Islam’s proxy agents find themselves pushed back as they have for instance in Iraq, Islamists will metastasize into other territories like they did in Syria. How long till Erdogan welcomes some?

    Which means we will need a “small presence” in multiple countries and find ourselves building outposts to control the barbarians.

    That begs comparison to Rome. Arguably, this ‘strategy’ vis a vis Islamic terrorism is forcing us into a de facto Empire. Hyperbole? Consider Qatar, where our huge Naval base prevents our doing anything about Qatar’s active support for terrorist organizations.

    The politically non-viable alternative I offer is the only effective strategy that I have seen that can avoid the other two futures; the defeat and surrender of the West or Richard Fernandez’s “The Third Conjectures”.

    We have already demonstrated with 8 years of the Obama administration that we have no staying power at all and cannot be trusted.

    It seems highly unlikely that it has escaped the notice of our allies and the non-aligned nations that there will be another President after Trump and that, given our nation’s demographics, sooner or later it will be a democrat.

  11. vanderleun Says:

    “All we are saying is ‘Give War a Chance.’ “

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Here are my responses to your points.

    Pulling out of Afghanistan would be an admission of failure. But isn’t a refusal to admit failure an even bigger one?

    Our goals in Afghanistan were not to make it Switzerland. They were to stop it from offering a haven to al Qaeda and to destroy the training camps there. To do that we had to depose the Taliban, who refused to do what we asked. Those two things happened. Now it’s a question of maintaining those gains.

    The problem is there’s every prospect of a never ending commitment to maintaining that ounce of prevention because there’s nothing in that “small presence” that will substantively affect the causal factors that are responsible for the ‘intransigence’ we’ve encountered in M.E. societies.

    “Intransigence” about making themselves over in our image, yes. But there are Afghan forces who trying to keep the Taliban out and the terrorists out, and we are encouraging them and training them.

    That might be an acceptable compromise were the aggression we face static but it is not. So when Islam’s proxy agents find themselves pushed back as they have for instance in Iraq, Islamists will metastasize into other territories like they did in Syria. How long till Erdogan welcomes some?

    Which means we will need a “small presence” in multiple countries and find ourselves building outposts to control the barbarians.

    Yes, that may be the situation we face. However, we have had a small presence in many nations all around the world ever since WWII, and that had nothing to do with Islam, so it’s not unprecedented. What’s more, I don’t really agree with you that we need to do this everywhere, because it’s not an either/or situation (either have a military presence in a country or we’re not fighting terrorists there at all). There are many ways to fight terrorism short of a military presence. But in both Afghanistan and Iraq, countries in which we used military means to create certain changes that were beneficial, it makes zero sense to me to leave those countries now that those changes have been made, and to give up there when a small presence would shore up those gains. That does NOT mean that in the future we use invasion and a military presence to solve similar problems in other countries.

    The politically non-viable alternative I offer is the only effective strategy that I have seen that can avoid the other two futures; the defeat and surrender of the West or Richard Fernandez’s “The Third Conjectures”.

    I assume you are not talking about the suggestion that we pull out of Afghanistan. I assume you’re talking about something very violent and very widespread. But since you haven’t described it in this thread (at least, I don’t see it described) I don’t know exactly what it is. But if it’s a political non-starter it’s not really worth talking about.

    We have already demonstrated with 8 years of the Obama administration that we have no staying power at all and cannot be trusted.

    We have demonstrated that Obama and his ilk had no staying power in Iraq. Trump is trying to give the message that we have some in Afghanistan. And by the way, Obama stayed in Afghanistan although he clearly wanted to leave.

    It seems highly unlikely that it has escaped the notice of our allies and the non-aligned nations that there will be another President after Trump and that, given our nation’s demographics, sooner or later it will be a democrat.

    But when? They certainly didn’t see Trump coming. Trump’s election increases the uncertainty factor. To me, after the Obama administration, it proves that our enemies should know it’s possible we might regain some fight even when they think we’ve lost it. They certainly can’t count on our staying power, but they also can’t count on our wearing out, either. They can’t count on anything, really, except change. And that was always true.

  13. om Says:

    Neo:

    Well stated responses to Geoffrey. I don’t know if he jumped the shark on this one:

    “When we do pull out, we should of course publicly announce that if the Taliban return to offering safe havens to terrorist groups that we will bomb their bases out of existence using whatever level of destruction is required, which will include nukes if needed.”

    Why stop there, (nuclear weapons and open ended threats) as there is always nerve gas or biological warfare agents. After all they are only Islamic. Taking it to “11” it seems to me.

  14. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Anybody notice that Afghanistan has long, porous borders with both Iran and Pakistan? Afghanistan is a major source of intelligence on both of those countries – one an outright enemy and the other a rather flaky nuclear power.

  15. J.J. Says:

    Fighting Islamic jihadis is like trying to deal with moles. You can kill many, but just when you think you’ve gotten rid of them, they appear again. Or maybe it’s like a tar baby. Once embrace the baby you can’t ever let go.

    Afghanistan is like that. I swear I don’t think our continued engagement there is going to win the war on Islamic jihadism. Yet, if we let it go back to pre-2001 rule by the Taliban, there is no doubt we will see it become a haven for Islamic terrorists again. Both options are bad. Staying seems marginally better.

    The only thing that would make a difference would be if we could cross the border into the Pashtun areas of Pakistan to pursue the Taliban. Trump hinted that Pakistan needed to do more. Can they be convinced? Doubt it. We’ll see.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    “We have demonstrated that Obama and his ilk had no staying power in Iraq. Trump is trying to give the message that we have some in Afghanistan. And by the way, Obama stayed in Afghanistan although he clearly wanted to leave.”
    –Neo

    http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/08/22/trump-afghanistan-difference-man/

    The obvious interpretation is that Trump changed his mind when he learned more about making the decision. And for what it’s worth, I think that’s what he actually meant by this statement.

    But there’s a more illuminating interpretation, and it’s a better one here. It involves a simple shift in emphasis.

    The difference isn’t that Trump is finally sitting in the Oval Office. The difference is that Trump – not Obama – is sitting in the Oval Office.

    Trump now has control over aspects of the Afghanistan policy that he had no control over when he was criticizing it earlier. He may have been unable to endorse remaining in Afghanistan at a time when our policy was barely hanging on in terms of its execution. The conditions of execution were set by Obama, and they entailed the deliberate placing of major obstacles like refusing to have a concept of victory, and mandating rules of engagement that rendered our forces both vulnerable and largely ineffective.

    At a time when Trump couldn’t affect those important conditions, it made sense for him to withhold support for continued operations under those conditions.

    But now Trump is the one with the authority to reset the conditions of execution. And on Monday night, he made clear that that’s what he is going to do.

    Policy doesn’t just execute itself, nor does military force work by rote, like turning on a machine. Good policy and sound strategy are necessary, but they are not sufficient. All military policy stands or falls in execution, and the president’s approach to setting the conditions of execution is critical.

    Trump has just made a set of decisions that transcends the argument’s old framework. By planning to change the conditions of execution, he has changed the proposition in Afghanistan.

  17. Patrick Says:

    So far I haven’t heard anyone reference this part of his speech, well, except at this link. I remember when this was announced, 2014 from my search results, and then it vanished.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/18/trumps-afghanistan-strategy-may-unlock-3-trillion-in-natural-resources.html

  18. blert Says:

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    August 22nd, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    We’ve been fighting Pakistan ALL ALONG.

    The Taliban is their sock puppet.

    For Islamabad… the whole operation is a hustle.

    It’s a PROTECTION RACKET.

    Pay Islamabad… or something really bad is going to happen.

    With out Islamabad’s FUNDING, the Taliban would blow a way.

    Where in H do you think the Taliban is getting their ammo ?

    &&&

    The correct strategy is to de-fund Islamabad — every way from Friday.

    Then watch the Taliban implode.

    Same as what happened to ISIS… the other Muslim army that we were funding.

  19. Big Maq Says:

    “I’ve long thought that it is wishful thinking to believe we can disengage from these places at this point or in the near future. “ – Neo

    I’m no isolationist, and certainly think obama completely mishandled Iraq.

    But, having said that, it seems to me there ought to be a somewhat measurable goal by which we can define success in this Afghanistan effort.

    Without that, then it is just a perpetual obligation on some fuzzy mission “kill terrorists” – i.e. more of the same – wasn’t that what the military has been doing all along?

  20. om Says:

    Blert:

    Indeed Pakistan has been part, but only part of our problem in Afghanistan (start the clock at 9/11/2001). Changing the behavior of Islamabad will help somewhat. You do recognize that Islamabad doesn’t have much control over large parts of Pakistan?

  21. The Other Chuck Says:

    Does anyone remember how we got out of Vietnam? Bomb the s**t out them, no safe havens (remember Cambodia?), declare victory after a staged peace conference, and leave. Who says Trump doesn’t study history!

  22. DNW Says:

    “Pulling out of Afghanistan, as you suggest, would be an even greater failure, so I have no idea why you would consider it better.”

    To mix a metaphor here, I guess if you can give people enough rope to hang themselves it eventually gives you a moral excuse to go in and kill them all. Or so it may cross one’s mind in some darker moments.

    Yeah I know … the innocents in front of the rock throwers …

  23. DNW Says:

    “I am not at all optimistic. You cannot defeat an enemy you refuse to identify. You cannot do for others what they can and should do for themselves. There’s a reason why the Afghanistan government is rife with corruption and cannot defeat the Taliban.

    That reason is based in Afghanistan’s societal infrastructure. That infrastructure is tribal and Islamic. Islam’s most fundamental theological tenets as found in the Qur’an, Hadiths and Suras support the Taliban not the corrupt government in Kabul. ”

    Although I disagree with withdrawal and more or less with Neo on this, I admit your description of the problem is conditioning for any analysis of the matter.

    What can successfully be done to improve a “country” where the moral tone is set by a race of tea sipping, sly-eyed Koran reading boy-buggers, is bound to be limited. Elimiating all the sodomites would probably improve the place long haul, but would cause a storm of protest among communities which otherwise recognize nothing in the way of an objective morality anyway.

  24. DNW Says:

    ” … and more or less [align] with Neo on this …”

  25. blert Says:

    om Says:
    August 23rd, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Islamabad — and its ISI has been playing Good Muslim and Bad Muslim ALL THIS TIME.

    FYI, the ISI has multiple ‘wings’ that don’t talk to each other — except at the highest levels.

    One is Section “T” the other is Section “S” — these are at TOTAL loggerheads with each other.

    One section deals with Washington, the other deals with the Taliban — which is its proxy army.

    The fantastic profits from Washington are more than sufficient to fund the Taliban — and much, much, much, more.

    Without the war, Washington’s sugar would totally dry up.

    Then, where would Islamabad be ?

    The internal strife seen in Pakistan is HUGELY orchestrated by Deobandi fanatics — and actually has NOTHING TO DO WITH the Afghanistan War.

    We’re not triggering it, Riyadh is.

    Taliban means “students” and the students we’re all talking about are indoctrinated ENTIRELY with Saudi funding. At this time, thousands of such madrassas are up and running. They ONLY teach hatred. Their graduates have absolutely no marketable skills.

    Islamabad has turned an internal civil war into an international war.

    The same dynamic has occurred within Saudi Arabia. It also has exported its internal strife.

    These are highly aggressive, militant, expansionist powers. They’d roll on like Adolf but for the fact that their economic and military power is so weak.

    So their aggression takes Fourth Generation Warfare techniques.

  26. blert Says:

    Folks, Afghanistan can be logically divided in two.

    To the west, where it once was part of Persia, Iran still has cultural sway. You might note that virtually NO enemy activity occurs there.

    The Iranians simply won’t allow weapons to cross the border. The prospect of blow-back is too apparent to Tehran.

    The rest of Afghanistan is under the sway of Pakistan.

    Even up north, it always turns out that the source of the fanatics and weapons is over the border in Pakistan — via the ISI.

    There are SO FEW roads out of the FATA ( Federally Abandoned Tribal Anarchy ) that the ISI could easily turn off the spigot — same as the Iranians already have.

    The fact remains: Pakistan profits from this conflict — and, indeed — is addicted to said profits.

    Beijing has LONG informed Islamabad that she will not be her sugar daddy.

    Hence, I view any ramp up for Kabul as a sugar moment for Islamabad.

    Our ENTIRE focus has been ackbassward.

  27. BrianE Says:

    The number of U.S. battlefield fatalities exceeded the rate at which troop strength surged in 2009 and 2010, prompting national security analysts to assert that coinciding stricter rules of engagement led to more deaths.
    A connection between the sharp increase in American deaths and restrictive rules of engagement is difficult to confirm. More deaths surely stemmed from ramped-up counterterrorism raids and the Taliban’s response with more homemade bombs, the No. 1 killer of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
    But it is clear that the rules of engagement, which restrain troops from firing in order to spare civilian casualties, cut back on airstrikes and artillery strikes — the types of support that protect troops during raids and ambushes.
    “In Afghanistan, the [rules of engagement] that were put in place in 2009 and 2010 have created hesitation and confusion for our war fighters,” said Wayne Simmons, a retired U.S. intelligence officer who worked in NATO headquarters in Kabul as the rules took effect, first under Army Gen. Stanley M. McChrystal, then Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.
    “It is no accident nor a coincidence that from January 2009 to August of 2010, coinciding with the Obama/McChrystal radical change of the [rules of engagement], casualties more than doubled,” Mr. Simmons said. …

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/5/increase-in-battlefield-deaths-linked-to-new-rules/

    This is what the Obama strategy did to our troops. Turned them into carnival ducks– riding around, waiting to be blown up or shot at before returning fire.

    It was disgusting. Political wars are disgusting, where our troops are fodder for some mystical political solution.

    Several good points have been made in this discussion– most of it at odds with any solution– because there is no discernible solution.

    At least President Trump said he is changing the ROE. But while I appreciate some of the arguments with staying a little bit longer (15 years not being enough time), I agree with GB.

    And I’m not sure how our presence in Afghanistan does anything to reign in any Pakistan adventurism. Does it make them more circumspect vis-a-vis their nuclear arsenal?

  28. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    neo,

    As Trump is under the sway of those who refuse to identify the source of the aggression, to maintain the deposing of the Taliban will require “a never ending commitment to maintaining that ounce of prevention”.

    “Intransigence” about making themselves over in our image, yes. But there are Afghan forces who trying to keep the Taliban out and the terrorists out, and we are encouraging them and training them.”

    Obama from day one gave up on nation building. The forces we are training are a joke and the reason is because they are Muslim too and know that the Qur’an, Hadiths and Suras support the Taliban, not them.

    “However, we have had a small presence in many nations all around the world ever since WWII, and that had nothing to do with Islam, so it’s not unprecedented.”

    Comparing our presence in non-Muslim nations all around the world like Germany to those in Muslim nations is comparing apples and oranges.

    “I don’t really agree with you that we need to do this everywhere”

    Everywhere? Though it would be a shame, I’m not worried about an Islamic presence in Tahiti. You’re exaggerating my point in order to dispute it. My point is that as Islam metastasizes, our ‘preventative presence’ around the world must as well. Out of necessity, that path leads to Empire.

    “But in both Afghanistan and Iraq, countries in which we used military means to create certain changes that were beneficial, it makes zero sense to me to leave those countries now that those changes have been made, and to give up there when a small presence would shore up those gains.”

    I’d agree had we made any meaningful gains. We haven’t. Only temporary gains.

    “I assume you’re talking about something very violent and very widespread.’

    No more violent than what we are already doing and less widespread in that it’s targeting is more finely specific.

    “if it’s a political non-starter it’s not really worth talking about.”

    Which is why I haven’t offered it.

    We have demonstrated that our resolve is variable. By their nature, wars upon which resolve varies like a pendulum never end.

    “To me, after the Obama administration, it proves that our enemies should know it’s possible we might regain some fight even when they think we’ve lost it.”

    Some fight certainly. They can afford to wait us out. We shrink from another 100 years War. They embrace the last 1400 years as only part of their Forever War…

    om,

    “Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security.” ― Edmund Burke

    J.J.,

    “if we let it go back to pre-2001 rule by the Taliban, there is no doubt we will see it become a haven for Islamic terrorists again.”

    Agreed, We pushed al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, so they set up in Yemen. We pushed ISIS out of Iraq and they setup in Syria. We’re pushing them out of Syria, so they’re setting up in Africa and Western Europe.

    AesopFan,

    “The difference is that Trump – not Obama – is sitting in the Oval Office.”

    I’m not arguing that in the long run that Trump may not make a definitive difference. I am arguing that as long as he follows the ‘strategy’ that McMaster, Mattis and Tillerson advocate it will result in failure. Any strategy that starts with the proscription that the enemy’s identity must not be named… is doomed to failure.

    blert,

    Cutting off funding to Pakistan will weaken those who do not want to give Islamic terrorists nukes. Even if cutting off funding doesn’t have that result, do you think someone like Qatar might step in with funds for Pakistan? Do you think Putin might have some extra ammo laying around for the Taliban’s Kalashnikovs?

    Big Maq,

    “Conditions on the ground” will be the “measurable goal by which we can define success”. How’s that for ambiguity?

    om,

    “Changing the behavior of Islamabad will help somewhat.”

    “We must reject being made scapegoats for the policy failures of the US and India,” proclaimed Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party”

    “Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani army, reportedly dismissed the President’s comments, claiming Islamabad has targeted terrorists operating on its soil.

    “There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan,” claimed the military spokesman.”

    DNW,

    “I admit your description of the problem is conditioning for any analysis of the matter.”

    That is the crux of my perception that Trump’s new ‘strategy’ will be a failure. McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and presumably Kelly disagree that my analysis is an accurate one. Time will tell.

    Two quotes by Edmund Burke apply;

    “The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.”

    “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.”

  29. Mike K Says:

    I see that I am not the only one focusing on Pakistan. The new strategy, I suspect and hope, will be a pivot to making Pakistan back down in their support of the Taliban and, if they won’t we will pull out of both.

    I would really like to know what is going on with the Democrats and their Pakistani IT staff. Was the ISI running our foreign policy the last 8 years ? Why does the indictment of Awan make NO mention of Pakistan, which is where they were all going?

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450665/debbie-wasserman-schultz-it-scammers-indicted-mysteriously-narrow-and-low-key-way

  30. Brian Swisher Says:

    I often think of what Peachy Taliaferro Carnehan said on a memorable occasion:

    They’re savages here, one and all. Leave ’em to go back to slaughtering babes, and playing stick-and-ball with each other’s heads, and pissing on their neighbors.

    But that’s when I’m feeling low about the whole affair.

  31. blert Says:

    Mike K…

    It sure smells like the Awan brothers were ISI assets.

    1) They operated with astonishing immunity.

    2) They had access — apparently — to bugging devices — which they used at every turn — even against family.

    3) It is COMMON for foreign intelligence services to engage in systemic crime — purely to raise funds for spy operations.

    The big New York ‘air-bag crime wave’ was run by a Red Chinese master spy — just for the Big Bucks.

    He fled right in front of the FBI.

    The monies involved were astounding.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    It is you who are exaggerating my point about “everywhere.” Obviously we both know that the word “everywhere” is not meant literally.

    As for the rest, it seems to me you discount the value of our mission in Afghanistan because it has not gone anywhere near solving the problem either in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and is not a permanent fix.

    No, it’s not. But I don’t expect it to be. It unfortunately became clear on 9/11 that this would be a long long war, fought on multiple fronts and in multiple ways and not even primarily militarily. Afghanistan is a small part of that, but there have been gains there and they are worth preserving.

    I’ll leave our argument at that.

  33. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Mike K,

    “Was the ISI running our foreign policy the last 8 years?”

    I’m doubtful that they were directing our foreign policy but they were privy to much of it and obviously, that allowed for a certain degree of influence. In geopolitics, I suspect that knowing where the ‘pressure points’ are is half the battle.

    neo,

    As you wish.

  34. Irv Says:

    Judging the possible effectiveness of serious efforts in the future should not be based on the half-assed efforts of Bush or the total lack of effort by Obama.

    Even with the stupid restrictions put on our military in Vietnam and Iraq we still managed to come close to wins only to have those coming wins turned to defeat by venal Democrats who cared more for political advantage than the good of the country.

    That same thing could happen in Afghanistan after Trump but his election gives me hope that the people are tired of electing self-serving politicians and ready to give people who have been successful in other areas a chance. The old adage that the best predictor of future success is past success is definitely true.

    No one can deny that Trump has been successful in his life before becoming President.

  35. blert Says:

    I must note that Trump has largely crushed ISIS… and the MSM… crickets.

    The fact that Barry Soetoro was funding ISIS… more crickets.

    &&&

    The pressure point is finance.

    &&&

    Our #1 problem is McMaster. He’s got Jihad all wrong.

    Let us pray that Trump promotes him to Kabul — and crams another star on his shoulder.

  36. blert Says:

    GB

    blert,

    Cutting off funding to Pakistan will weaken those who do not want to give Islamic terrorists nukes. Even if cutting off funding doesn’t have that result, do you think someone like Qatar might step in with funds for Pakistan? Do you think Putin might have some extra ammo laying around for the Taliban’s Kalashnikovs?

    Qatar has their OWN problems.

    Unlike the Taliban// ISI the Pentagon would have NO problem spanking Qatar.

    For Putin, Afghanistan is TOXIC. It’s not critical ground. The blow-back from the USA would be entirely too much, as well.

    The one power that would make a play: Red China.

    But that is already locked in. Red China is following down the steps of the Kaiser — and rather blindly, too.

    Rampant speculation is already afoot that Red China has cyber-attacked the USN’s destroyers.

    This would entail activating corrupted computer chips that have back-doors hidden from our operating systems.

    This is something we did to the Soviets. So it’s not as if this is a new gambit.

    The MORE we base elite troops near Pakistan, the MORE paranoid Islamabad is, the more they set loose their atomic weapons upon their road net.

    True.

    The authorities are not going to ‘decide’ to give up atomics to Deobandi fanatics. It’s simply going to happen on its own — unless the wiser minds step up and put the atomics back under lock and key.

    Loose speculation in our MSM is what has set the atomics, free, and on the road.

    Islamabad thought that such a gambit was sound and wise. (!!!!!)

  37. Big Maq Says:

    “stupid restrictions put on our military in … Iraq” – Irv

    What restrictions were those?

    Seems to me the problem was mission creep, not our military’s inability to use force.

  38. Richard Saunders Says:

    Since we are not going to use the tactics used by the successful conquerors of Afghanistan — Alexander, the Persians, the Mongols — Trump has picked the least worst option: kill terrorists, and put pressure on Pakistan, their base of support. He made clear to the Chinese that unless they cooperated on North Korea, “Be a shame if something happened to that nice little trade surplus with the US you’ve got.”

    By bringing up India’s role, and Pakistan’s complicity, he made it clear to the Pakistani’s that their gravy train could come to a halt.

    “Your check, General? Gee whiz, I have no idea what happened to it. I’ll have get with accounting on that. By the way, how’s that control over the border area with Afghanistan going?”

  39. Big Maq Says:

    “Of course, nukes may only be used as retaliation for a nuclear attack upon us. So we’ll have to lose a few cities before it will be politically acceptable to use them.” – GB

    Agree on direction, but not in specifics.

    Seems the calculation in WWII was that either choice – continue with conventional warfare or go with the bombs – was going to result in the same ballpark number of deaths (as best could be estimated, based on the nature of the fight up to that point).

    Of course, the expectation was our side would sustain much heavier losses on the conventional path – probably the decisive factor.
    .

    Point is, we may not have to lose beforehand a couple of cities worth of people to determine that we likely would lose such if we didn’t use those weapons, under the right circumstances.

    But, that would have to be a judgement made with serious honesty, not clouded by excessive animus towards the sly-eyed boy bugger enemy.
    .

    Even if the taliban return to rule Afghanistan, it hardly seems worth even contemplating, as nuclear weapons are so disproportionately out of whack to what we face.
    .

    But, do agree on the notion that we surge (again), take out whatever targeted leadership / organization there is, then pull back to a status of forces, Guantanamo type settlement, letting the locals to sort out their affairs.

    If they rise to a threat again, well, that’s why we have forces remain.

    If the best the locals can summon up is a dictator, so be it.

    We can use our soft power to have that leader align with us.

    We shouldn’t care what they do, except if they are headed toward re-establishing a (or creating a new) threat.

  40. Irv Says:

    Big Maq – These have been reported on so many times in so many places I’m surprised you’re unfamiliar with them at least generally. One restriction was that you could only shoot at someone who was holding a weapon. They could shoot at you and then drop their weapon and just walk off. Another was that you had to get permission at several layers of higher authority before you could fire at all. There have been many reports on TV that on most of the flying missions in Iraq and Syria the aircraft came back without dropping a single bomb or firing a single bullet because they couldn’t get permission. So the number of missions the administration bragged about meant nothing because so many of them were ineffective.

    I experienced these types of restrictions in Vietnam so I know firsthand they exist. We used to send F-105 Thunderchiefs up North carrying only 2 bombs when their normal load was 16. You could not fire at an enemy aircraft unless he was airborne. You could not fire at a missile site unless they locked their fire control radar on you. Many, many missions ended with dropping their bombs in the ocean because they couldn’t get permission to drop them on the enemy.

    In the gunships I flew (AC-119k, Stingers) we were so accurate that we could fire within 10 meters of friendly troops and have no stray bullets, but on one particular mission out of Bien Hoa I had to sit and watch rockets being fired the base I had just taken off from because I couldn’t get permission to fire back at them. It would have meant a court martial to fire without permission.

    From what I have learned from friends in the military (I do volunteer work with the VA and the DAV) the restrictions I had to live under were nothing compared to those put on by the Obama administration.

  41. parker Says:

    Got to say I disagree with remaining in Afganistan. I supported destroying and killing as much as possible back in 2001. That said I supported a couple of years continuing the killing and destruction. After that, no. The real problem is Pakistan, and that is the reason we are in the swamp of alligators in SE Asia.

    No one wants to go there.

  42. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The primary purpose in Afghanistan was not killing terrorists, although 9/11 made that kind of necessary by propaganda effect, but capturing guerillas and cracking AQ’s global network.

    Intel doesn’t work without hum int.

    After 2008, Hussein didn’t care so much about capturing terrorists, since he was going to get Gitmo to release them anyways. It was easier just to bomb and kill people, including American citizens.

    Thus, Afghanistan became wholly a meat grinder like Vietnam. Designed exclusively to get rid of non Democrat voters.

  43. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Pakistan and Afgahnistan is something that can only be changed by India/China.

    Those are their backyards so to speak. They need to create a port, create railroads, and create a pass through the mountains.

    Both India and China are in need of money, military power, technology, and resources. Splitting Afghanistan and Pakistan up with them, isn’t something the Elite Rulers are too stupid to realize.

    They just don’t care. America is enough to stand alone with NATO at least, and NATO got Afghanistan. Well, we should know how good NATO is by now.

  44. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Before people talk about leaving Afghanistan, they should deal first with their positions on South Korea and occupying Kosovo/Serbia, plus occupying Okinawa.

  45. om Says:

    Rhetorical question.

    If the previous president allowed the SEALS to violate Pakistan airspace, fly in without permission to OBL’s safe house located next door Pakistan’s “West Point,” terminate OBL, collect intelligence, take OBL’s body, and then feed it fishes. Do the Paki’s, ISI, and the Tolibon (BHO pronunciation) sleep well at night now that President Trump is in charge? Just askin ….

  46. The Other Chuck Says:

    With you 100% Parker. We needed to get out long ago. Trump’s initial instincts on this were correct. He’s being influenced and pressured by family and others to be “presidential.” My own brief experience with high ranking military during the Vietnam era left me with less than a good opinion of most of them. Career military officers = Career politicians.

  47. Irv Says:

    The Other Chuck – I doubt that you came into contact with most of them. Speaking as a career military officer I can honestly state that we are no different than any other group…most good, some bad, but more often with a greater sense of personal responsibility than the general public only because we routinely deal with life and death in much the same way that police, firefighters and medical professionals among a number of others do.

    There is a political aspect to moving up in the hierarchy of any large organization but every organization tries to weed out the purely political ones, not always successfully, but always trying to.

  48. The Other Chuck Says:

    Irv:
    My enlistment in the AF put me in contact with office jockey type officers – Personnel, JAG, etc. many of whom were promoted to ranks and given medals they didn’t deserve, IMHO. Those like you who actually did combat are another breed, and my hat is off to you.

  49. AesopFan Says:

    The Other Chuck Says:
    August 24th, 2017 at 1:02 am
    Irv:
    My enlistment in the AF put me in contact with office jockey type officers – Personnel, JAG, etc. many of whom were promoted to ranks and given medals they didn’t deserve, IMHO. Those like you who actually did combat are another breed, and my hat is off to you.
    * *
    Irv, thanks for your comments, and Big Maq was probably trolling on that one.

    My own opinion of the Top Brass was the same as TOC’s,
    having no personal acquaintance of them and coming-of-age in the Sixties (although I was an adolescent fan of Sgt Rock and Sgt Fury in his early years; go figure), but I changed my opinion due to the example of my father-in-law who had already been promoted from AF jet fighters (WW2-Korea-Vietnam) to desk-general when I met him.

    I never knew a more principled, resolute, or patriotic man, (other than my own father — WW2 infantry), who could do both Top Gun and Top Brass jobs to the highest standard.

    (FWIW, one of my sons did a little research and discovered his Grandpa’s post-flight management of some quite important projects had some of the highest success rates in the AF.)

    RIP Dad, July 2017.

  50. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Hussein purged a lot of the upper echelon and even middle echelon American patriots in the uS military.

    Trum has basically a broken military at this point, trying to patch it up by feeding them into a bloody war zone. Which may work, Bush II did the same thing in Iraq.

    War tends to get rid of the office jockeys, if only because leaders like Petraeus are given power to promote or demote people.

    The upper echelon were directly fired/replaced/destroyed.

    The middle echelon of captains, majors, colonels, were gotten rid of via the “Hassan” angle. Meaning, indirect pressure and shackles so painful, that they had to leave. Others had to leave because they did “enhanced” interrogation against captives to save their teammates. One person even became a politician after the military discharged him for that.

    Some of the combat veterans from the OIF/Afghan theaters during Bush II, went Democrat, because they believed becoming a Democrat polititical veteran like Shinseki, was going to promote the welfare and health of veteran affairs…

    Anyone remember what happened when all these Democrat veterans got power and put Shinseki in charge of the VA?

    Shinigami Shinseki lived up that name at least.

    The whole transgender and women in combat thing, was designed to hijack the military at the entry enlistment level, the junior officer level, and eventually 30 years later, the middle echelon. The upper echelon can be purged and replaced by Democrat politicians, but the lower and middle tiers are harder to hijack. THere are only so many John Kerries after all.

  51. Ymar Sakar Says:

    (FWIW, one of my sons did a little research and discovered his Grandpa’s post-flight management of some quite important projects had some of the highest success rates in the AF.)

    Family history research?

    Some modern day black “celebrities” were offered that kind of research, and they found out their ancestors were red indians that owned slaves or the slaves themselves owned by red indians. You could see the PC cognitive dissonance shock on their face when it was revealed to them on camera.

  52. Big Maq Says:

    @Irv – I respect your point, particularly wrt Vietnam.

    But is the problem in Afghanistan that we couldn’t drop enough bombs, or shoot enough people?

    It seems to me the problem was turning from a mission of whopping the taliban and eliminating a safe haven for bin laden to one of nation building, which involved using our military to solve other problems that are rightly for the locals to solve.

  53. Irv Says:

    A strong and competent military can aid the diplomats in negotiations by providing incentive for the other side to negotiate in good faith. But the threat of military force must be credible for it to do any good.

    That was the problem with Obama. The military was capable but the other side knew that he had no will to use it effectively. When he did use it he tied their hands with rules of engagement so restrictive that the overwhelming military capability was totally ineffective.

    When Obama reluctantly agreed to allow a surge in Afghanistan, he gave the generals half the force they requested and at the same time announced to the enemy that all they had to do was wait less than a year and we would be leaving no matter what. That gave back in advance any gains that might be made. It demoralized our troops and incentivized the enemy.

    When negotiations between countries fail, the diplomats and politicians should turn things over to the military to run the war. The military’s job is to fight and to win. After that their job is to protect the diplomats while they establish the structures for governing.

    Our military is perfectly capable of winning in Afghanistan but it won’t be clean and neat like in the movies. There will be many civilian casualties, as there are in all wars, and there will be mistakes on all sides. The politicians have to trust and support the military and not have unrealistic expectations. If they lose trust in the conduct of the war then they can replace the leadership. This has happened in every war in the past and doesn’t point to failure because it might happen in Afghanistan.

    However, without support, a military, no matter how good, can win. If we allow the left wing media to control the narrative they way they did in Vietnam and every conflict since then, failure if guaranteed.

    It’s the politicians job to control the narrative and generate the support of the people for the war. If they can’t or won’t do that then the military can’t win because every gain will be traded for a false hope for a peace that never comes. Think of Charlie Brown and Lucy holding the football. Or even more appropo, think of the North Vietnamese going to the negotiating table in return for a cessation of bombing of the North and then arguing over the shape of the table for over a year while they rearmed. That was not a failure of the military, it was a failure of political leadership.

    So, it’s up to the politicians, not the military, to determine if the war is worth fighting. If they decide it is and are willing to generate the proper support of the people then I guarantee that the military can win.

    I think it is worth fighting because I’m convinced that militant Islam will continue to grow until they feel that their losses are greater than their gains and too great for them to bear. I’d much rather convince them of that in Afghanistan than Atlanta.

  54. Irv Says:

    Sorry, in paragraph 6: “However, without support, a military, no matter how good, can win.” ‘A military’ should read ‘no military’

  55. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Hussein told the military in Afghanistan to lose. If they disobeyed, they would be court martialed.

    One of the tricks they used as pretty interesting. They traded a Stryker brigade that was training for Iraq, over to Afghanistan, and routed a Stryker brigade trained for Afghanistan, over to Iraq.

    On paper, it looked like Hussein was “reinforcing” things in Afghanistan…. on paper that is.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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