Sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good start

Editors’ note: A version of this article was first published at The Weekly Standard

In a primetime speech Monday evening, President Trump is expected to announce the deployment of several thousand more American troops to Afghanistan. We doubt this will be enough to win the war, but it is better than the alternatives offered to the president. A complete withdrawal would have been disastrous.

The premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State, which evolved into an international menace after overrunning much of Iraq and Syria. A similar scenario could have unfolded in Central and South Asia. The Taliban-led insurgency currently contests or controls more territory today than in years. And a withdrawal would have cleared the jihadists’ path to take even more ground, possibly leading to dire ramifications throughout the region.

Therefore, President Trump deserves credit for making a decision that went against his gut instinct, which told him to get out. In the process, America and its Afghan allies avoided the near-certain catastrophe that would have followed.

But if America is really going to put the Afghan government on the path to victory, then the Trump administration will have to learn from the mistakes of its predecessors. In particular, the US government needs to drastically reassess America’s jihadist enemies and avoid the policy pitfalls of the past.

With that in mind, the Trump administration has the opportunity to make the following course corrections.

Stop underestimating al Qaeda

President Trump can explain to the American people that al Qaeda is still a significant problem in South Asia—a potentially big one. President Barack Obama frequently claimed that al Qaeda was “decimated” and a “shadow of its former self” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That wasn’t true. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign dealt significant blows to al Qaeda’s leadership, disrupting the organization’s chain-of-command and interrupting its communications. But al Qaeda took measures to outlast America’s drones and other tactics. The group survived the death of Osama bin Laden and, in many ways, grew.

Consider that from June 2010 until 2016—that is, most of the Obama administration—the US government repeatedly insisted that there were just 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan. This was clearly false at the time, and US officials were eventually forced to admit that this figure was far off.

From October 2015 until the first week of December 2016, the US and its allies killed or captured 400 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan—four times the longstanding high-end estimate. In October 2015, American and Afghan forces raided two large training camps in the Shorabak district of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. One of them was nearly 30 square miles in size. US officials described the camp as likely the largest al Qaeda training facility in the history of Afghanistan. Both of the Shorabak camps were supported by the Taliban.

Think about that: In October 2015—more than 14 years after the 9/11 hijackings —the US led a raid on what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in history. So much for being “decimated.”

Al Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner as well. Its newest branch, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, is deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency. And just days before the 2016 presidential election, the US killed a veteran al Qaeda leader in eastern Afghanistan who was both planning attacks against the American homeland and supporting the Taliban’s insurgency. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still able to plot attacks against the US from inside Afghanistan.

Some of the Americans newly deployed to Afghanistan will be called upon to perform counterterrorism missions. Similar efforts have disrupted anti-American plots in the past. But al Qaeda has used its broader role in the insurgency to regenerate its threats against the West. The American mission needs to root out al Qaeda, much more so than in the recent past. Are there other Shorabak-type training camps? How many fighters does al Qaeda really have in Afghanistan— taking into account its ethnically diverse membership? The Trump administration needs to focus on these types of questions. Otherwise, al Qaeda will keep coming back.

Forget about a grand bargain with the Taliban’s senior leadership

Many officials in the US government think the only way the Afghan war ends is by negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. There’s just one problem: The Taliban has never shown any real interest in peace.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw negotiations with the Taliban during the Obama administration. The talks were a fiasco. The Taliban extracted various concessions and the US never got anything in return, other than Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an accused deserter. The current Taliban honcho is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, whose son carried out a suicide bombing in July. Akhundzada is a jihadist ideologue, not a prospective peace partner. Negotiating with him would be sheer folly. The Obama administration also pursued talks with the Taliban under the theory that the group could forswear al Qaeda. See the details above—that idea was always a dangerous fantasy.

The US and the Afghan government can and should attempt to peel away mid- to low-level Taliban fighters and commanders. But the idea that a grand bargain can be had with the Taliban has never been rooted in reality.

Stop treating the Haqqani Network as a separate group

The US has long operated under the delusion that the powerful Haqqani family and its loyalists are somehow distinct from the Taliban. It was always a curious assumption given that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network’s eponymous founder, formally joined the Taliban in the mid-1990s. His son, Sirajuddin (a key al Qaeda ally), has been the Taliban’s No. 2 leader since 2015 and oversees much of the Taliban’s military operations. Sirajuddin’s ascent within the Taliban’s ranks means that no one can pretend that the Haqqani Network and the Taliban are distinct entities any longer. The Haqqani Network has long been designated a terrorist organization by the US government. The Trump administration should extend the designation to cover the entire Taliban, thereby making it clear to anyone who does business with the Taliban that they are backing a terrorist group.

The Islamic State is a threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not nearly as much of a threat as the Taliban-al Qaeda axis

The US has spent disproportionate resources fighting the Islamic State’s “province” in eastern Afghanistan. Earlier this year, for example, the US military dropped the “mother of all bombs” on the group’s stronghold in Nangarhar province. Several Americans have died during operations against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists in country.

There’s no question that the Islamic State remains a serious problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it still doesn’t threaten the Afghan government to the same degree that the Taliban-al Qaeda axis does. The Islamic State controls parts of perhaps several Afghan districts. But the Taliban and its allies contest or control approximately 40 percent of the country. Therefore, the US has focused a lot of resources on a, relatively speaking, smaller threat. The Trump administration will need to devise a more offensive approach to dealing with the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance, an effort that has been hampered by restrictive rules of engagement in the past.

Pakistan continues to be a big problem

It is no secret that Pakistan harbors much of the Taliban’s senior leadership. But the US has only occasionally targeted these figures inside Pakistan proper. If Pakistan won’t turn on the Taliban—and it won’t—then the Trump administration should take more aggressive action against the group’s Pakistani safe havens.

The drone campaign can be expanded to target known Taliban leaders operating inside Pakistan. For example, the organization’s leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a May 2016 airstrike in Pakistan after he returned from a visit to Iran. Mansour’s death was intended to open the door to possible peace talks, which didn’t materialize.

If the Taliban is allowed to continue operating unencumbered, then the administration will be repeating the mistakes of the past. For too long, the Taliban’s leaders have been able to direct the insurgency in Afghanistan from their cozy confines in Pakistan. American aid to Pakistan can and should be withheld until the country’s military and intelligence establishment proves willing to make meaningful changes in its behavior. No one should hold their breath waiting for this happen, however, and the Trump administration can’t afford to wait.

Iran remains a problem, too

The Iranian government has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since 2001. Although this assistance is not as pronounced as Pakistan’s, it is meaningful. The US government has also repeatedly noted that Iran hosts al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,” which moves fighters, funds, and communications to and from South Asia. Any successful strategy for turning the Afghan war around will have to deal with the Iranian government’s nefarious role.

The Russians are on the opposite side of the Afghan war. The Russians are, at a minimum, providing rhetorical support to the Taliban. There are reports that Russia has provided arms to Taliban insurgents as well. President Trump has made no secret of the fact that he seeks better relations with Vladimir Putin’s government. But Russia’s flirtations (and maybe more) with the Taliban are a stark reminder that this will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In the meantime, the US will have to take steps to disrupt Putin’s relationship with his favorite jihadis in the Taliban.

The rural areas matter

US military officials often downplay the importance of rural areas, arguing that they need only bolster the Afghan government’s defenses in the more heavily populated areas. But this is a mistake. The Taliban’s insurgents have been using their advances in Afghanistan’s more rural territory to orchestrate sieges on several provincial capitals. If the US and Afghan forces don’t go on the offensive in these areas, then the jihadists will continue to squeeze the more populated terrain.

These are just some of the issues that confront the US on the road ahead.

With his decision, President Trump has ensured that the worst-case scenario won’t unfold. But that is a long way from victory. And to win, the US is going to have to get real about our jihadist enemies in Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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30 Comments

  • Frank Dunn says:

    To be blunt, I don’t want my son or anyone’s son or daughter to fight in Afghanistan. This is especially true because if the next US president is a Democrat, the sacrifices our troops make will be tossed away as indifferently as the bloody gauzes covering their wounds. This political backstabbing occurred in Iraq under Obama in 2011 as he withdrew all US troops against the advice of our military. A withdrawal meant to help Obama’s reelection and from all indications, to appease Iran so that the faux nuclear talks could lead to a horrible & totally dishonest nuclear agreement in 2015. Using US troops for campaign ads and/or to appease avowed enemies like Iran isn’t why we put so much time and effort into our children.

    Suggest that President Trump insist that the Afghan military and civilians create their own MAGA helmets and baseball caps – Make Afghanistan Great Again. We have tried, but after 15 years, the responsibility falls on Afghan shoulders.

    • Dick Scott says:

      And they are incapable of doing it especially since apparently a lot of the Pashtuns, some 40% of the country, give at least passive support to the Taliban which has allowed them to fight this war for going on to some 17 years. And Trumps new strategy is not likely a good one.

    • irebukeu says:

      I disagree. The ACTUAL reality is both dominant partys in America push a policy of intervention abroad first with teachers and trowels, then with the dory and sarissa. Republicans prefer the sarissa so they tend to remember getting to the battle first. It doesn’t actually work that way. American presidents do not get elected for their knowledge of the world. We seem to prefer to elect governors of states rather than secretaries of state so the world is always seeing a new turnip truck pulling up to its stage so someone new can fall off. Enter the newest truck.
      Since you seem to see things the way you phrase them, perhaps I can ask you about Benghazi? Whats going on with that? the R’s are everywhere. Should be some real answers soon yeah?

  • Paddy Singh says:

    A Good Start? Its not sending a few flatfoots but the Yanks would have to exceed the force they had, when they started the withdrawal. The Bush administration thought that Afghanistan would be a walk over, not having studied basic Afghanistan history. Had they, and the Soviets, read Stephen Pressfield’s ‘The Afghan Campaign’, things may have turned out differently. They even forgot their defeat at the hands of the men on bicycles – who had them scrambling out of Vietnam.
    To quote Alexander, from Pressfield’s book where where he brilliantly describes Alexander’s campaign and his eventual retreat, “Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle, as other armies we have duelled with in the past. . . . Even when we defeat him, he will not accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering”. Even Gorbachev said victory was not possible in Afghanistan and withdrawal would be another Vietnam.
    Peter Mckay, a well known UK correspondent, with the Daily Mail correctly asks is there any reason why Bush and Blair cannot be brought to justice for two needless wars even as Charles Taylor stands on trial in the Hague?
    The over 10yrs in Afghanistan and the 180 billion the US spent, would have been better spent on education. In the early 1900s the Shah at that time banished the wearing of the burqa but the illiterate conservatives revolted against the ban and the Shah gave up. Had 450,000 troops spent the decade building schools, Afghanistan would have been a different place today.

    • Dick Scott says:

      The US mistake was to invade the country in the first place and putting the minority group government in place. Rather if we had been building the schools and roads in Afgh. instead of spending all that money on the invasion, Afghanistan would have been a different place today. The Taliban had been asking for economic development help at the time they successfully banned opium poppy, which fell on deaf ears. And we could have agreed to let Osama leave Afgh. in secret as he had proposed rather than starting this never ending war. A bird in flight is easier to bring down than one in the bush.

      • irebukeu says:

        I don’t think Omar would have ever turned on Osama. The Egyptian perhaps. Not Osama. I have heard the theory that the Taliban were willing to do something but I just don’t see much meat on that bone. Osama leaving Afghanistan would probably have meant his cozy little fort in Pakistan. Oh yeah, lets not forget the huge denial of anything from Pakistan.

        • Apley says:

          Immediately after 9/11, Mullah Omar convened a religious council, which recommended that Osama leave Afghanistan. Al Qaeda had provided the Taliban with support in defeating the corrupt warlords of the Northern Alliance. What the Taliban needed the most in 2001 was recognition of from the international community. The Taliban was not aware of Osama’s planning of 9/11 and were not involved in that attack. In fact, Mullah Omar sought evidence of al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11 and Colin Powell offered to provide it publicly (but retracted). Bush could have offered a grand bargain with Mullah Omar — “tell us how to get Osama and we will recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan.” But that would have made for a quick operation and would not have been able to set the precedent for not only terminating terrorist groups but also “ending the states that support them.” The neocons needed a bigger war in Afghanistan to set up the Iraq War. They deliberately enlarged the size of America’s enemy such that most of this war has been fought against the Taliban, and propping up a weak government dominated by Northern Alliance retreads and returning exiles who have scant grassroots support. The Taliban know that they’ve beaten the Northern Alliance once before, and can do so once the Americans leave. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions that the young men now fighting this misguided war are too young to even remember how and why the war got started.

  • Arjuna says:

    Commenters fail to acknowledge that Ayman Al Zawahiri still lives and plots murder and has sworn allegiance to the ISI patsy du jour Mullah Unpronouncable. We must keep the boot on their necks even if it’s just via a T&A mission for the time being. We will need these 4,000 troops as Pathfinders when the BIG GAME against Pakistan begins.
    Afghanistan will be the base from where we launch, rather than Pakistan being the base from where the TB launch. Pakistan’s karma is coming. When Z moves, we can pounce.
    When there is no more Al Qaeda and no more Taliban (and perhaps even no more Pakistan), then we can leave that AO, not one day sooner.
    -11-B

    • Robert Jordan says:

      An invasion of Pakistan will start World War 3. At least it will distract from Pakistan’s focus on and fear of India. Perhaps that is what you really want.

      • Arjuna says:

        I’m very philosophical about old PK.
        If they want WWIII so much that they’ll hide Zawahiri and Hamza, they just might get it and it just might be their karma.

        • Azad Khan says:

          All the jehadis in Arabia, Africa and Asia are young, internet savvy and growing nefariously and economically i.e underground trade in humans, oil, drugs and weapons all goaded on and financed by a variety of crackpots and despots ranging from creeky kneed geriatric gulf princes to russian gunrunners, North Korean dictators and even elected officials in Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan etc.
          Fortunately for us at this moment in time we in the west are doing fine economically and militarily – now is the time to consolidate what we have gained in knowledge and apply it to make our living spaces secure and immune from radical islamic terrorism doing whatever it takes if we need to- example-control access to the internet like China and North Korea We should for example like wise control access to economy, travel, etc prevent jehadis from interacting with the civilised world.

    • James says:

      U are an Indian, speaks volumes about ur insecurities with Pakistan,,,,

  • Robert Jordan says:

    What you describe as the “worst case scenario” actually is the best case scenario. It makes no sense to continue a military approach. Spend resources to develop good human intelligence and let Afghanistan disintegrate as it surely will eventually. In the likely event that the Taliban take over Al Qaeda may relocate from Pakistan to Afghanistan but so what. The U.S. focus should be counter-terrorism, not counter-insurgency.

  • Ted Hitchcock says:

    Good points all, but they don’t add up to the conclusion that sending more troops is a good thing. They won’t, as you observe, be enough to win the war, just continue it. You offer good insights into how we might re-balance our priorities – and you were wise and honest enough to refrain from suggesting that that would turn the tide. So we’re left, if we’re lucky, with an approximation of the status quo. But that can’t last. Already massively unpopular, the war will become “Trump’s war” and the next administration will end it. Or a recession will come along and Congress will “deobligate” it.

    At that point you will have the “disastrous” complete withdrawal you so fear, but it will be too late to reach an agreement that salvages anything from the situation. We will be lame ducks; the Taliban won’t have any reason to talk; the Afghan government will be too panicked and fragmented to talk; and the Iranians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Indians and Pakistanis will have their hooks too deeply in the Taliban and/or the Kabul factions to permit serious talks. It would be far smarter to focus on bringing the war to a soft landing now, while we still can.

  • Dave Roberts says:

    Does everyone forget the history that led us into Afghanistan? Allowing brutal regimes to continue in a foreign country is a question open to debate, but when that regime is a staging ground for attacks on American soil is another debate altogether. The Taliban are an extremist Islamic group whose most fervent desire is to see the USA and all we stand for in ashes.

    Sending in several thousand more troops is a difficult answer, but it’s probably the best of several unpleasant options.

  • Arnold Falk says:

    Every democratic society has costly “overhead” to keep it that way. There is infrastructure to build and maintain, governments at several levels, a defense establishment, and so on. I have started to see our presence in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. defense overhead. We have a force in South Korea, and for good reason. And in Japan. And in Germany. All part of the U.S. defense overhead. And for a least the rest of our lives I think, in Afghanistan, where the 11 September 2001 attacks were plotted. It is not comforting to note this place is only a short distance from where the Pakistani military has nuclear weapons. We need a force there which can be used to keep those weapons from ever falling into jihadist hands.

    • irebukeu says:

      Your last sentence may be the best argument for keeping troops in Afghanistan. If we look at the way IS took Ramadi in 2015, we can see the possible tactics that may be employed on the military level (add to that any treachery or inside job advantage that will be in play at the moment of H-hour) to gain access through multiple rings of security. Knowing how the system fails, how heightened security levels impress nobody for more than 3 days, it is a bit worrying. How nuclear weapons can easily and I do mean easily fall into the hands of IS, TTP, Taliban etc. is a concern. The unknown factor is how much time would be required to go through all the levels of security? I have heard stories that they (Pakistan) drive some bombs around secretly in order to Avoid the US swooping in and grabbing them all in one fell swoop. We tell them to “put them in once place where they can be watched better” and they tell us to “climb hills”.
      What Americans should realize is that if any weapon does fall into the hands of al qaeda or such group, the Pakistanis will not accept the blame-will blame failures in systems, backups or just plain dead batteries. They will blame America for not updating their security measures, for not giving them more. They may deny any weapon has been lost at all. For Pakistan to do anything it will require payment in the form of F-16’s and attack submarines.
      I disagree with the need for a force in South Korea or at this point in Germany or even Japan. America pays (its much more than half=DO NOT be fooled) to defend South Korea while they export to us their unemployment and spend 2.6 % GDP on defense YUK!!! and we keep saying that they are at war with North Korea still? Who is willing to prove that with actual evidence? 2.6%? WOW!! This is what Trump was elected to stop.
      I would support and agree with American bases in the lands of the ‘five eyes’ where it would be worth risking American life, limb and treasure to defend. We can put naval bases there and not risk war so quickly with such forward assets and still have access to the worlds oceans.

      It would be worth noting that looking back into recent history, that most of the pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor in Dec 1941, not because the Japanese wanted war with America and went looking, but because the fleet was so close to the Japanese mainland, pinning down the Japanese fleet. Japan went ahead and sunk most of the fleet almost as an afterthought and made all of its moves at the same time in one of the most brilliant operational plans (and strategic blunders) ever conceived and executed. War would have come anyhow, but we would have had the entire pacific fleet to fight with.
      Now when we rattle sabers at China, they can get us right there in Japan at the same time they make other moves.
      Another historical note is the underestimation of the capacity for China to react with military force. China perceives a real threat, it will act. In March 1956 the Central Military Commission (CMC) – adopted ‘Active Defense’ as an official Strategic Guideline.

      I am against keeping any troops in Afghanistan but you present the best argument for it . Thanks.

  • Patrick S. says:

    What a great appearance I saw of Bill Roggio on newsmax discussing this. What I wonder a bit about was some Ex-Military Guest I saw on one of the shows saying, “Hey, these terrorists are on Russia and Iran’s flanks via the borders with Afghanistan”; we should let them worry about this more. So, I thought, hmmmn, maybe?

  • Philip Lisagor says:

    The war is over. We need to leave the Islamic nations we are involved in; Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, UAE, Qatar and all the rest. Until then, we will continue to fire up insurgents throughout the world. And at the same time, let’s note how much energy the sun gives out, even when 95% covered, and bring on solar energy while getting off the great oil tit. The energy conglomerates can either adjust or there position in the market will be replaced by others (reestablishing free market theory which was assassinated in 2008 with the financial and auto industry bail outs). These two vectored approaches will solve our mideast blues.

  • sabina ahmed says:

    Let me give a totally different solution for Afghanistan. The problems of instability in Afghanistan is partly because of Pakistan’s reactionary undertakings there due to India’s influential dominance on Afghan Government and Afghan spy agency. Who always creates chaos in their Baluchistan province to make Pakistan unstable. Instead of India, if Afghanistan comes under Pakistan’s influence, the situation in Afghanistan will calm down significantly and much quickly and easily. It will be cheaper too. Only Pakistan can force Taliban to the negotiating table with their government and bring stability in the country. USA will not be successful in coercing Pakistan to give up their grip on the Talibans. Because Talibans are their tools against India.

    Remember, Afghanistan is paying the price of the enmity between India and Pakistan. These two countries are enemies for 70 years and fought three wars in the past. Pakistan won’t let India be on both west and east side of their borders. They will prevent India’s dominance on their western border , no matter what. Plus, Pakistan and China has very good relationship. They are tied both economically and militarily. Pakistan will easily give up USA’s billion dollar aid for their country’s sovereignty.

  • Azad Khan says:

    Afghanistan is right next to Iran – a de facto nuclear state with a theocratic administration run by imams and mullahs who chased the Shah and his backers the USA and the west out in ’78, Pakistan is also an Islamic theocratic state with democractic features which has become more radical Islamic in the last 30 years with the Army losing power to politicians and thier allied imams Pakistan has gravitated away from the west and towards China , Russia and Gulf monarchies.
    It is inevitable given this geo-political environment that we may soon see an Iran ’78 style revolution on the streets of Kabul.
    Denying this would be expensive and a waste of time, money and blood let the Afghans do what they have to with themselves and lets just defend our own territory.

    • Dick Scott says:

      We about had what you have outlined with the Taliban government until we went in and took them our and replaced them with mostly the minorities. And yes it has been an expensive and long term (16 years) experience.

  • Vern says:

    Alright, I see lots of decent points in the comments. Before I start my “rant” let me show some of my background. Spent over two decades as an Intel guy focused on Middle East, to include Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three tours there, time in Pakistan, graduate degrees focused on the region, wife is a Pushtun.
    With that, somebody please point out to me the “vital” U.S. interests there are in Afghanistan. I cannot see any. Oh, one can always talk about security and prevention of terrorist hosting within Afghanistan, but most terrorist activity is now in Europe and in our own homeland. As for using security as an excuse, I refer you to a little book written in 1935 by MajGeneral Smedley Butler, “War is a Racket”, although in this instance we don’t even have business interests to provide a justification for extending “security”.
    There is nothing demanding U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, this is a conflict of choice for the U.S. However, there are now over 8,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan, as well as around 26,000 U.S.-source contractors. If we add another 4,000 or more U.S. troops, we will have over 38,000 U.S. hostages to Pakistan, as that is how all the supplies come in. And Pakistan is the main enemy here for the U.S., but we will continue to pretend they are not and as the CENTCOM commander did last week in meeting the acting PM pf Pakistan, we will grin, act like bobble headed dolls and give more billions to Pakistan with no accounting. China, the actual ally of Pakistan (because of India), will continue to laugh at the U.S.
    As to the Taliban and the current dysfunctional government, do any Americans really care about who runs this land-locked supposed state? Prior to 2001, the U.S. was willing to accept the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the government, however reluctantly. What has changed? If the current Kabul-government cannot stand without U.S. (and European) support, is it legitimate? I am not advocating support for a genocidal religious government but if that is the one with the strongest claim to legitimacy among the bulk of the Afghan populace, well then, let them have it.
    And I am not that concerned about Afghanistan being a home-base for international terrorism, whatever the status is of Taliban in relation to Al Qaeda. 9/11 was planned in Europe, not Afghanistan. The idea of the attacks leading to 9/11 came out of Pakistan (not the government but by terrorists who were ignored by Pakistan’s ISI as non-threats to Islamabad (and therefore potentially useful in the future).
    And the only thing Afghanistan has to offer is opium (~80% of the global traffic) but that is a bigger threat to Asia and Europe. Which is exactly why Russia and Iran are diplomatically involved with the Taliban right now, in order to address that issue. So again, why should the U.S. shoulder our way in here?
    Now, I await my flailing.

    • Dick Scott says:

      Wasn’t it some time in the 70s when a group of State people and others concluded that Afghan was of no vital interest to the US? And you are right, we should not shoulder our way back into Afghan. We should have let the Taliban maintain control of the country rather than invade and put the minorities in power. Since the start in about 1746 (don’t remember the date) Afghanistan has/had been ruled by the Pashtuns.

    • Robert Jordan says:

      These are great comments! On point and well-articulated. Thank you.

    • Azad Khan says:

      Thanks for a really level headed, focused and concise snapshot of the US and the realities faced by the west in dealing with Afghanistan, historically a tactical wasteland where empires and religions have clashed since antiquity for control of supplies of gems, sapphires and dry fruits like almonds and pistachios nowadays opium rules. there is absolutely nothing in Afghanistan now and centuries of war have made it an absolute black hole in the universe of nations. there being zero trade,manufacturing, or services, this poor wretched nation has no educational systems so there is literally no academic culture or knowledge at all, what it needs is nation building over a period of atleast 25-50 years .
      Having said that personally I feel that in this new century we need to be more cognizant of the rights and duties of each nation and that every nation must take its own responsibility to ensure safety of its citizens it is unfair on the American people to singly take on the burden of maintaining safety and security of the whole world at the expense of impoverishing themselves.
      The saddest thing for Americans is that huge bases(unlimitedly expensive) exist in the middle east and Japan two of the richest regions of the world- to an impartial observer this concept of a western country struggling to provide unversal heathcare to its own but paying for the security of rich Japanese, Saudis and Koreans is ridiculous, unfair and totally not needed I really hope that the political establishment stop this asap or else the USA will breakdown just like the Soviets.
      What are we afraid of that we feel the need to station hundreds of thousands of servicemen overseas.can’t we just have a really strong Army that stays home to protect our territory just like any other normal nation?

      • Dick Scott says:

        keeps lots of people employed.

        • Azad Khan says:

          The Soviets kept the whole russian continent employed in non productive collectives look what happenned to thier economy, look at the fantastic case of Guam – a whole island dependant on the US military budget, money that according to the US constituition is earmarked for defending American soil- not a island in the Pacific!

    • irebukeu says:

      I will register my almost total agreement with you. I’ve been sounding like a broken record for at least 6 years now on this site. My guess is, you will not find anyone to engage in a discussion with from the view of staying. More and more it seems, comments are against the war.
      Our current leader seems blind to history and reality. I am hearing some of the most stunning statements coming from this administration.
      “We’re about to turn the corner in this fight,” “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one but neither will you”.
      I am waiting to hear the Taliban will be made to pay the cost of the war.

      • Azad Khan says:

        While they are at it they could build the wall too, hey no harm asking right ? and Don has a lot of experience making cold calls on the phone!

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