It is difficult to examine the War in Afghanistan, given the fact that it has lasted more than a decade and has had multiple phases. It is especially tough to reflect upon the conflict because of the lives lost, time exerted, and its relationship to 9/11 and terrorism.
This past week, President Trump broadly summarized his Afghanistan policy and what he thought of the war. The policy he outlined was more similar to his predecessors than one might have thought he would support considering his harsh comments the war and our involvement.
His policy is basically more of the same-old-same-old military commitment that is in place to prevent terrorists from gaining a foothold in a power vacuum that would occur if American troops left abruptly. The President indirectly criticized Obama’s troop pullout in 2011 that partially caused ISIS to gain power in the region. Trump stated that his decisions will be based on ground conditions and the opinions of generals. This is a strength of Trump’s promised policy when one remembers Obama’s repeated political guarantees to remove our troops from the region (eventually leading to a premature departure of many American troops). He boldly condemned Pakistan for harboring terrorists and called for an increased partnership with India, differentiating the Trump Doctrine from the Obama or Bush Doctrines. Lastly, Trump concerningly promised to lift combat restrictions that, “prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.”
Overall, President Trump’s policy does not seem more likely to win the war than what has already been done. The US is in a nonconventional war against an ideology and a dedicated insurgency. There is no perfect solution, but we do need a different one than we have now.
One solution might be recognizing our flawed efforts and leaving the region without any more time, money, or lives lost.
Another solution might be using overwhelming military force to obliterate the enemy and those that support its ideology.
More of the half-in and half-out military engagement style will not work. We need to leave Afghanistan or be fully invested to kill thousands of more combatants while also destroying an ideology that will most likely grow if we increase our involvement.