Analysis: The costs of withdrawal from Afghanistan

First it was Syria, then came Afghanistan. Two days ago, President Trump shocked the foreign policy community by announcing the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, wrongly claiming the Islamic State has been defeated. Within the last 24 hours, reports have emerged that the US military will quickly pull nearly half of its forces from Afghanistan, and likely withdraw the rest by the end of 2019.

Trump’s decision is unsurprising to us. We’ve reported since October that the order to withdraw from Afghanistan could come at any time.

Many are celebrating the move, pointing to the length of the conflict (17 years), the enormous sunk cost and the inability of the Afghan government to stand on its own. Careful readers of this website will note that we have been critical of the war effort, and especially the rosy rhetoric employed by US military officials. We could easily pen another biting critique of the US-led war.

More troubling to us than a so-called “endless war,” however, is an outright jihadist victory. And that’s what Trump’s withdrawal of the small American force in country all but guarantees.

For years, the Taliban and al Qaeda have told their followers that victory is on the horizon. “Verily, Allah has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled,” Mullah Omar has been quoted as saying.

More recently, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri claimed that the Taliban’s resurrected Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will be the “nucleus” of a new caliphate. Such is the importance that Osama bin Laden’s successor has placed on the Afghan jihad. Similarly, the leader of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Asim Umar, predicted in 2017 that Trump’s “America First” policy meant that America would retreat from Afghanistan, thereby signaling the loss of its global leadership position.

Today, their predictions look prophetic. The precipitous withdrawal of US forces will grant the Taliban and al Qaeda a victory. Just as the mujahideen vanquished one superpower in Afghanistan, they will now claim to have defeated a second. The boost this gives to the global jihadist movement will be felt in the years to come. Trump’s withdrawal will have other costs as well, from undercutting his diplomats’ already weak negotiating position to validating Pakistani duplicity. And the Islamic State hasn’t been defeated in Afghanistan either.

A victory for the Taliban and Al Qaeda

The rapid withdrawal of US forces will give the Taliban, the group that hosted al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings, a clear triumph.

It will also be a win for al Qaeda, which has remained a steadfast ally of the Taliban since the US invasion. Zawahiri has sworn a bayat (oath of allegiance) Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the current head of the Taliban, just as Zawahiri had pledged his fealty to Akhundzada’s two predecessors. Akhundzada’s top deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has long worked with al Qaeda on the Afghan battlefield. In fact, Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father, Jalaluddin, gave al Qaeda a foothold in the region in the first place.

When Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death was announced in early September, al Qaeda’s general command eulogized him as bin Laden’s “brother.” Al Qaeda addressed Akhundzada and Sirajuddin as “our emirs in the Islamic Emirate,” vowed to remain loyal to the Taliban’s emirate-building project, and said that it took “solace in the fact” that Sirajuddin is the “deputy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Emir of the Faithful.” 

The “Emir of the Faithful,” an honorific usually reserved for a Muslim caliph, is how al Qaeda consistently refers to Akhundzada.

This is not mere rhetoric. Numerous independent reports and assessments confirm that al Qaeda has embedded its operatives as military trainers and advisers alongside the Taliban, while also providing combat forces. AQIS was formed in 2014 for several reasons, but principally to help the Taliban rebuild its Islamic Emirate. AQIS’s men continue to serve their Taliban comrades to this day.

Al Qaeda has hidden the extent of its network in Afghanistan for years. The group doesn’t even release videos or images from its massive training facilities. This has been enough to fool credulous analysts into thinking that al Qaeda maintains only a minimal footprint in the country. Indeed, there is a cottage industry of Taliban apologists in the West. Their dismissal of the Taliban’s ongoing alliance with al Qaeda will be put to the test in the coming months.

Indeed, we expect that once American forces have left Afghanistan, al Qaeda will begin to advertise some of its activities once again. Zawahiri’s men will use America’s defeat as an alluring recruiting tool, bragging that the US couldn’t defeat them.

Weakens an already weak negotiating position

This fall, the US government tasked Zalmay Khalilzad with negotiating a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. FDD’s Long War Journal has been very clear that we think that this effort has little chance of success. Past efforts to negotiate with the Taliban ended in a fiasco. The Taliban has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which it views as an “impotent” “stooge” and “puppet” of the US. The Taliban has demanded that American troops leave the country, Taliban prisoners be freed, and its leaders removed from the UN blacklist before the Taliban even considers talking with the government. The Taliban also rejects democracy, refuses to share power with the government, and most importantly, calls elections “un-Islamic.” While some Afghanistan watchers claim these positions can be negotiated, the Taliban has proven over the past that it is willing to hold fast to its radical principles. The West has often mistakenly downplayed the Taliban’s ideological commitment.

Regardless of whether or not you believe negotiations can lead to a settlement (and we do not), the immediate withdrawal of 7,000 troops from the country does not strengthen Khalilzad’s position. In fact, it greatly weakens it. Before news broke that the US would begin withdrawing soldiers, Khalilzad and other US officials had already signaled American weakness by pushing for a quick negotiated settlement. They wanted a deal as soon as April 2019. The US has engaged in these talks without the participation of the Afghan government — a move that grants legitimacy to the Taliban and delegitimizes President Ashraf Ghani’s administration.

The Taliban undoubtably views Trump’s withdrawal as further evidence of US desperation. There was little to no reason to think that the Taliban would negotiate in good faith before. There is none now. The Taliban can string along the US and extract concessions without giving anything up.

From the beginning, the Taliban has insisted that it was “fighting and negotiating with the American invaders for the success of Jihad” – that is, to get America out.

The Taliban has already achieved that goal.

Potential ANSDF collapse & a return of the warlords

The Afghan National Security Defense Forces (ANDSF) have struggled with containing the Taliban-led insurgency, as well as the Islamic State, even with approximately 15,000 US troops in country. Afghan military outposts are routinely overrun by agile Taliban forces. The jihadists even briefly took control of large areas of Farah and Ghazni cities this year. The military and police have largely been on the defensive, as the Taliban has maintained the initiative. ANSDF casualties (killed in battle) average between 500 and 600 a month for the past several years.

Even with US and NATO forces backing the ANSDF, the Taliban controls about 13 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, while contesting another 49 percent, according to an ongoing study by FDD’s Long War Journal.

A rapid reduction in US forces will no doubt allow the Taliban to step up its efforts to gain more territory. A complete withdrawal will pave the way for the Taliban to take control of large areas of Afghanistan. At least some provincial capitals and other populated areas will fall under the Taliban’s control in short order. This likely could lead to the collapse of the ANSDF and the Balkanization of Afghanistan. We could see the return of warlords and a revival of something akin to the Northern Alliance.

Pakistan’s use of jihadism as a foreign policy tool has been validated

Pakistan also has much to gain from a US withdrawal. It says much about America’s ineptitude and confusion that not a single Pakistani official was ever sanctioned or designated as a terror supporter throughout 17+ years of war. Besides the Trump administration’s decision to withhold some miitary aid, Pakistani officials never paid a real price for harboring the same forces that were attacking Americans and their allies.

Pakistan’s model of using jihadists to further its foreign policy goals in the region has been validated. Pakistan sponsors the Taliban and other terrorist groups as part of its regional security strategy. But there is more to it than that. Some unknown number of Pakistani officials have themselves fallen under the jihadists’ sway. The Pakistani military and intelligence establishment will continue to export the jihad to neighboring countries, particularly in the Indian state of Kashmir, but perhaps also elsewhere.

The Islamic State isn’t dead in Afghanistan

Finally, the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan “province” hasn’t been defeated either. Although a US-led counterterrorism campaign has killed several of the group’s emirs, and dislodged Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists from their safe havens in eastern Afghanistan, they continue to terrorize the Afghan capital and other populated areas. Meanwhile, they also regularly attack inside Pakistan as well.

Outside of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State’s men are most active in the “Khorasan.” The so-called caliphate hasn’t been defeated in any of those areas, but President Trump is withdrawing from the fight.

We share much of the widespread frustration with the US-led war effort in Afghanistan. We simply disagree that America can withdraw without serious consequences.

In the coming months, we will report on the ramifications of President Trump’s decisions, just as we did during the Obama administration. There is a simple rule of thumb many haven’t learned: the enemy gets a vote.

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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40 Comments

  • Russell J Coller Jr says:

    Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown:
    “…we shall NEVER leave our Security Partners’ sides in British North America… uhhh…are those French ships…?”
    .
    LBJ, 1964:
    “…I will not send American boys to do a job our Valliant Anti-Comonist Allies can do fo’ demseves…”
    .
    Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1921:
    “…there is light at the end of the tunnel… unless Field Marshals are assassinated on their doorsteps in West London… then we’ll turn tail, scamper back to vast land-holdings & find another colony to enslave… err tax…”
    .
    DJT, DEC2018:
    “…we’re outta the dusty West Virginia of Pakistan (a country of greedy, rip-off, palace-dewelling incompetent cowards) … let the s***-hole burn…”

  • S R says:

    I have said this before and I will say it again, the ANDSF need to step up and take the fight to the Taliban, and the Afghan government need to sort themselves out.

    RS/NATO, the Afghan government and the ANDSF should adopt this strategy: Instead of the ANDSF always being on the defense, the Afghan police should be given the responsibility to defend, while the ANA and the ASF should go on a nation-wide, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, offensive against the Taliban. This strategy covers both the offensive and defensive aspects.

    The Taliban are always on the offense while the ANDSF are always on the defense. Right now the ANDSF are sitting like ducks waiting to be attacked, killed and looted by the Taliban. The ANA and ASF need to take the fight to the Taliban. The ANA and ASF are a huge disappointment.

    Trump is sort of right in saying the US is wasting tens of billions of dollars of the American taxpayers money in Afghanistan, because the ANDSF isn’t putting in the effort against the Taliban and because the 2-headed Afghan government is corrupt, incompetent, divided and in conflict with itself. The Afghans need to play their part in this struggle instead of being complacent and thinking everything will be fine because of Uncle Sam.

    If the US withdrawing half (7000) of their troops from Afghanistan gives a kick up the backside of the Afghans to get their act together, then good.

  • Ron says:

    “Regardless of whether or not you believe negotiations can lead to a settlement (and we do not) . . .”

    I do.

    Because Khalilzad has one, singular focused mission: GET A SIGNED PEACE AGREEMENT.

    There is nothing, I believe, he will not give to get TBSL to sign that agreement, thus giving POTUS a “victory,” which will be touted as something two other administrations couldn’t achieve (The Vietnamization of Afghanistan).

    We all know it will only be a matter of time before TBSL ignores the agreement, tramples on the Afghan Constitution and invokes their version Sharia law (I assess about 12-18 months after the agreement is signed). The majority of Afghans, whom are decent people, that had been wary we would eventually abandon them as we did in the 1990’s, will be proven right, thousands who sided with us will be executed as Infidels or kafirs, and the USA will never be trusted by a single Afghan again – and there will come a day in the not too distant future when we will need it.

    The Northern Alliance will reconstitute, and we will be back to the pre-2001 strategy (minus the trust of the Massoud/Dostum/Atta factions).

    May God bless those poor & decent Afghans, and May God prove me wrong.

    RJ

    • Joey says:

      I believe a deal could happen.

      I do not believe there’s any way to hold the collective insurgency accountable to it, so it wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on. The insurgency has changed it’s model from the origin of being funded top down, largely from foreign donors. Now it’s bottom up, funded largely through taxes on both narcotics and legitimate economic activity.

      Ipso facto if the deal doesn’t solve local commanders’ problems (and I see no deal that could, because the country is a mess and if nothing else most of them will still be broke and hungry) they’re still gonna fight.

  • Moose says:

    Is it possible that we can turn Afghanistan into another theater for drone operations like Yemen and Somalia?

  • Drew says:

    As a defense contractor, I’ve made it a point to ask the military commanders every chance that I get “if the Americans left tomorrow, how long would it take for the Taliban to retake the entire country?”. The shortest timespan that I’ve been told is 6 days, lol. The longest timeframe I’ve been told is 5-6 months. GIRoA will probably be about as relevant as the Government of South Vietnam is today (remember what happened to them?). This will be a hard loss for the American government.

    My only hope is that one day the Taliban and co. will be defeated from within.

    It will be annoying listening to those that will claim that America never really lost the Afghan War because “it was never a war” or “the Afghans were doing all of the fighting after a certain point”.

    • Tim Lynch says:

      I have 8 years of outside the wire time in Afghanistan – in fact I took Bill Roggio on a road trip from Kabul to Qalat back in 2006. He got good video of Taliban fighters stalking a fuel convoy outside of Shah Joy during the trip. If we pull out (and there have no indications other than fake news stories that we are) I can promise you one thing; the Taliban will never take over the country or Kabul. The fact that our military officers think Kabul will stand at most for just six days is ridiculous and, yet again, proves how isolated and clueless our military is when it comes to assessing what is happening just feet outside their perimeter wire. I’m not arguing to stay but am confident we are going to stay because our government and military, which are supposed to be run by a hierarchy of competence has demonstrated that they are really hierarchies of mediocrity.

      I know it, you know it, but the corporate media and our ruling classes can never admit to what they truly are: incompetents who have had life-long runs of good luck. When faced with Black Swans they fold as quickly as a cheap suit but the consequences of failure for them remain mitigated by their membership in the ruling class. Read the new best seller Bad Blood (I finished it in one reading) and think deeply about how unbelievably gullible George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, and James Mattis were (and remain to this day) about the Theranos company and the ditzy sociopathic woman who founded that fraudulent company.

  • George R. Langworth says:

    What about KSA coming in to substitute in the fight?

  • Baz says:

    2019 is a hugely significant symbolic year for the Afghans, because it is the anniversary of empire-bashing victories for them. Their first anniversary is on the 2nd of February 2019 which is the 30th anniversary of Soviet empire’s defeat, followed by the August 9th 2019 is the centenary (100th anniversary) of the British empire’s defeat. Now thanks to President Trump’s major decision to bury his empire in its designated graveyard, in late 2019 the Afghans will also watch another empire’s ship hit the rocks in the same year they celebrate the 30th and 100th anniversaries of previous empire’s defeats. Maybe the new Taliban regime will stage a grand victory day military parade and fireworks in either Kabul or Kandahar (one of the cities which they may rename to “Mullah Omar City”) to commemorate the victory over all three empires.

  • Dave jones says:

    Say the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, as it will. How is it a problem for the US?

    The ‘safe haven’ myth is just that, a myth. 9/11 came out of Hamburg and Florida. The way to stop another 9/11 is not to fight an endless war in Afghanistan, but as Trump knows very well, to tighten border security. Travel bans and extreme vetting will keep America safe, not foreign wars. You can’t get flight training in Florida if you never get past the border!

    • Darrell Andersen says:

      You get it. The Taliban was a duped proxy, used and tossed aside by AQ. The Taliban wants to run Afghanistan and has shown very little interest in attacking targets outside of that country until 2007 or so. They want to be left alone to run their despotic caliphate. I struggle to see where the US national interest is in that.

  • Baz says:

    Come on Long war journalists, what are you so scared of? This is surely a win-win situation for everyone in the best interests of all sides! After a withdrawal there will be no more american lives or trillions of dollars being wasted down the drain in vain. There is no way the US will win anyway, that’s impossible, while the return of the Taliban’s Islamic emirate regime is 100% guaranteed certain reality. If Trump didn’t pull the plug today then the insurgent forces would have militarily defeated the invaders outright anyway sooner or later in a slow grind burn, similar to how the Soviet red army defeated Germany’s third reich in a slow burn in vicious street-by-street fighting all the way until they fought to Hitler’s Berlin bunker, after which they captured thousands of Nazi soliders and officials to humiliate and prosecute them. Mr Roggio and Mr Joscelyn, and any other warmongering supporters as well as the defence-industrial complex who feeds them to profit on killings; do you really think that the spectacle of American soldiers, officers and officials being captured and paraded on the streets of Mullah Omar City, I mean Kabul or Kandahar in 2020, followed by their public execution or imprisonment or even enslavement, is really better than them withdrawing home safely on the 30th anniversary of the Soviet defeat and 100th anniversary of British empire’s defeat (in 2019)? Instead of thinking of futile ways to prolong the unnecessary war, spread more warmongering and wasting billions and troops lives, you guys should be thinking of what happens next after the full US defeat, of how you can pressure the upcoming Talib government, such as maybe a mixture of diplomacy and sanctions like what was done to Iran, or maybe a sanctions-free trade deal like the 2015 deal with Iran.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all a fan of the ultra-orthodox big-bearded turban-heads making their homeland into the Muslamic version of North Korea, however that is still better than perpetual war and suffering that is there now. Don’t forget that North Korea itself was threatening to nuke america only last year. However there is a long-standing robust armistice agreement and strong diplomacy from both sides which is why North Korea is not actually attacking anyone or converting their militaristic rhetoric into action. AQ is nothing but a dog held on the leash held by its Taliban master, so they can only go as far as the IEA regime will let them, and Taliban has promised over and over again they are not interested in allowing attacking another country from Afghan soil. Maybe AQ is to the Taliban what the Talibs and other South Asian Muslamic militant groups are to Pakistan, but you’re not calling for war or Iran-style sanctions against Pakistan just because of Pakistan’s covert support of some dodgy groups. If america makes a robust armistice with Tally’s Islamic Emirate regime, which is very realistically feasible, then AQ wont do anything against the west other than empty bombastic hollow rhetoric like Kim Jong’s regime in 2017. So congratulations to president Trump for making this wise withdrawal decision in his first term in office. If Trump gets reelected then his second term (or Trump’s democrat successor’s first term in office) will most likely focus on how to manage relations between the Taliban-run Islamic Emirate of Afghanisatan and the United States. If America doesn’t let the Taliban take over the Afghan embassy in Washington DC to normalise bilateral relations with them (like how America normalized relations with the Vietnamese who defeated them) then other countries like European states and Russia will move on, normalize bilateral relations with the Taliban’s Islamic emirate and leave the US behind, and profit from the huge business opportunities to invest in Afghanistan’s trillion dollar motherload of natural resources, which are safer in the supervision of the primitive clerics than the corrupt warlords that US was supporting for long.

    • James says:

      Baz:

      Hey folks, guess what country has the highest heroine addiction rates in the world? It’s Iran ! ! ! If you don’t believe me, just look it up. I think that’s just hilarious. Talk about getting what you deserve. I wonder where they are getting all of that heroine from. Maybe Allah is raining it down on them as manna from heaven.

      I can’t wait until ISIS cashes in on it. There won’t be nothing as entertaining as watching a bunch of nut case jihadists high as a kite on heroine blowing each other up and sawing each other’s heads off, now will there?

  • Passer by says:

    It is all about costs. It is very clear that no matter what deals are made, Taliban will gradually take over Afghanistan and there will be terrorist groups and training camps there.

    Those can not be eliminated by the occasional Tomahwak strike or drone strike (it did not work on North Waziristan, it is still a terrorist infested area in Pakistan). The Taliban Gov will not like America due to those (necessary) strikes. ISIS will also continue to operate there under the shadows, although taliban may restrict them to certain extent, as they don’t like each other too much.

    Also the withdrawal will make Pakistan more influential country in the region, and will weaken India, which is close to the US.

    So the point is are you willing to tolerate a country with various terrorist camps and unfriendly Islamist government, and strengthened Pakistan? Is this cost worth it?

  • Peter Corrigan says:

    I have followed developments in the War on Terror in LWJ for some time since ‘mainstream media barely covers serious issues anymore. I agree that the country will fall or return back to the Taliban. But what is the alternative? Permanent semi-occupation? Why are the Taliban so much more ‘agile’ than the government forces after almost 2 decades of training? To me the answer is clear–motivation and morale. The Taliban are true believers and so is much of the country. Unless Islam changed (which it won’t) or the people of the region became sufficiently motivated to defeat jihadism we cannot ‘win’ there, ever. Trump at least admits that.

    • cdor says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking while reading this article. If the majority of the people want to be ruled by the Taliban, as it appears, how can we stop them? If we stay, are we going to be asking the same questions 50 years from now?

  • Edward Jordan says:

    The mission given to U.S. military forces on was to capture/kill the Usama bin Laden, the Leader of al Qaeda and the ideologue behind the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11/2001. That mission was successful on 2 May 2011. We should have begun pulling out U.S. forces on 3 May 2011, to demonstrate to the American people and to the International Community that we were not going to fall victim again to “mission creep,” but we stayed in Afghan because our leadership was not strong enough to redeploy us and explain to the American people our new strategy. Thank you for maintaining the support to our forces through your vigilance.

    LTC (Ret) Ted Jordan
    NSDQ

    • James says:

      Hello LTC Jordan:

      Thank you for your service.

      As those tail bunnies like to say: “You have the watches. We have the time.” How do you defeat a strategy such as that? It’s really so simple (if you think about it), you DON’t give them the time.

      It’s like them thinking to themselves that, “It will take us (at least) 10 years to defeat the US.” You DON’T give them that 10 years.

      Refer to my post below. There has to be a time limit set. And please, no one try to tell me that “The enemy will just wait US out.” Even if they did, well then good. That would just give US more freedom to train the indigenous forces while NOT having to be under fire

  • etudiant says:

    Think the Trump decision is a recognition that the US cannot achieve any of its goals there and that the large costs will not diminish as time goes by. So it is better to take the hit earlier, while we still have the resources to endure it.
    The force in the area is entirely dependent on a logistics train that is completely Pakistan controlled. The US could never sanction Pakistan while its troops are Pakistan hostages.
    Once the troops are removed, the US has more freedom to act.
    Pakistan is currently getting Chinese support as an element of the China/India rivalry, but how well that squares with Pakistani support of an expanding Islamic state remains to be seen. It is not a space where the US can or should be more than a peripheral player.

  • Hameed says:

    The sudden withdrawal of 7000 US troops from Afganistan shows that president Turamp is not thinking deeply to US global forgine strategy despite of paying life of US troops and spending of maney in Afghanistan.

    In the global level; The US will loss tatally its image, reputation and prestige among its global shareholders. No one can count on US to be used as a supportive state for other countries who are in needed in term of security, economic and politics.
    The move of US drawdown will actually perceive as defeat for US in the global level particularly for Rassia, Iran, Pakistan and China which may challenge the US in the shotterm and longterm particularly in the countries which are attractive for these above countries in term of global security, economic and geopolitical point of view.

    In Afghanistan; The US wihdrawal of troops can increase the moral of their oppositions and insurgency groups particularly Taliban, Al-Qaida and ISIS. It may provide omore pportunity for global terrorist networks in Afghanistan which may threaten the stability of regional and global countries. Although the Aghan government is fully in fanction against opposition and global terrorist groups (Taliban, ISIS and Al-Qaida), won’t be able to comeover from current security challenges as the regional proxies are engaged in the ground through these Armed Opposition geoups.

  • Dennis says:

    Both sides of this issue have merit, to a point. Withdrawal is a viable option because without proper support on the ground and in the air, why bother? We HAVE the equipment and manpower, just not the stomach politically. Wars are inherently bloody, nasty, dirty affairs with mistakes made on both sides. Our enemies aren’t bothered by moral lapses in judgement on their behalf, why the hell do we roast our hamstrung forces in public theatre? In war, there is no vanity, no moral high ground. Killing is the main game. To stay, we MUST reassert our commitment for why we are there to begin with. No more sitting back waiting for a non-existent fighting force to be made from non-willing civilians whose loyalties change with the wind. No more dumping money in their pockets. No more “gentlemans” rules, trying to impress the the world with our combat morality. We have weapons, use them. Lastly, we went there for a reason, define it clearly with goals and strategies that don’t have caveats. Blue ball pakistan, dry up all funds to them. Finish quickly, exit even faster, things should be blowing up as the last men leave. NEVER say your sorry.

  • Samet Coban says:

    Very strong points made in your article. I can only echo what you wrote.

  • irebukeu says:

    Fold up the tents and let’s get going. A half out isn’t an out and as we have seen with Obama, deadlines mean really nothing, Things change. We are but one attack away (In Afghanistan) from sending in another 5,000 troops. Its how we roll.
    This is another case of Trump running for President on drawing down in Afghanistan. Now he is doing it. I support the decision to do so, though I may be dead wrong in my opinion.

    Is China going to be OK with Pakistan pushing the gas pedal? They have so many mineral rights and copper rights they want to develop?
    How is an American exit going to affect the Iranian posture toward the Taliban? They might not be so happy with Herat’s defensive situation. Who will watch out for the Shia in the North? IS will target them and the Taliban won’t care. Iran cares. We all know the story. It will cost them much in resources and perhaps draw them in. If they need help…call Russia.
    The only good reason to stay as I see it is to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of militant groups in Pakistan. That is the only reason, I see worth being there at all.

    The honest reporting here is a total refuge. The pain in having to write articles like I have been reading must be terrible. Its clear in the articles. I can imagine the second-guessing that might have been involved before posting. Respect!
    Just keep up the Honest reporting, analysis and truthful speech. Most all of us know what team you’re on!

  • ben e davis says:

    Once we can figure out how to protect our own borders we can worry about this.

  • Arvind says:

    I hear a lot of criticism of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Being an Indian I am worried about what this withdrawal will entail but we have been there for about sixteen/seventeen years, what have we achieved? We can go on fighting Taliban and Al Qaieda forever without actually getting anywhere. Reason being we have been fighting the wrong enemy. We fought the wrong enemy not just during Soviet Afghan war but in the War on Terror as well. Both times it was Pakistan who stirred the pot and both times Afghans got punished, why? Does US interventions in Afghanistan make it a global cop or stabilizing force? No. Its white man cleaning the brown man’s mess. They are basically exploiting the US to their own ends. It has happened many times. Question is why should not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan? What is there in Afghanistan? If anything the US presence in Afghanistan is doing its plucking the fruits of a poisonous tree, whose roots lie in Pakistan, with a hope it will cease to bear those poisonous fruits and that never happens. Should we go into Pakistan? Yes, but first we use other options, sanctions. Compared to Pakistan, Iran is an angel but look how many sanctions slapped on it or North Korea, why not Pakistan? Oh wait, its a nuclear state, there will be chaos, nukes will land into the hands of extremists, right? Mark my words, no matter what you do eventually it will happen unless ofcourse you decide to take this nation head on. I am not talking about a unilateral action but global and that should and must include India and China as well.

  • Dre says:

    Remember when people talked so loudly about “cut and run”?
    I cant hear them now. Where are they?

  • kevin green says:

    cut off all aid to Pakistan.

  • Jeff Aziz says:

    Hand wring much?

    For all the gnashing of teeth over the departure of Sec. Mattis, I fail to see what coherent difference in outcome will result by staying there other than to merely delay the inevitable.

    The inevitable is what all the smartest people in the room have been writing and speaking about, i.e., the eventual resumption of control by the Taliban.

    So then, how many more Americans must die, be wounded, be separated from their families with all the attendant secondary burdens of years of combat deployments before the futility you so plainly acknowledge is ACTED UPON in a manner that is not the definition of insanity?

  • Jonathan Burack says:

    Not once in this do I see any sign of a strategy to reverse the dismall situation you claim requires us to remain. Not once do I detect the slightest interest in the fact that the American public does not want to continue this fight. Apparently neither a lack of plausible strategy for victory nor any respect for the constitutional requirement of gaining public approval via a vote of Congress makes a diddle damn bit of difference to you. Hence, I say, I am with Trump. Time to stop putting our soldiers in danger for YOUR sense of the “serious consequences” their leaving might or might not produce. YOU DO NOT HAVE A LEGITIMATE MANDATE FOR THIS WARFARE.

  • Robert Barry says:

    While I hold the writers in the highest regard, please consider that 2,000 troops is a tethered goat, not a fighting force. If we have something to fight for, send in 100,000. Eisenhower sent 10,000 to Beirut to guard one airport. No casualties. Reagan sent 1,200 to guard the same airport, 241 died.
    We really do have enemies, you list many of them. Let’s play our game, not theirs.
    Respectfully
    Robert Barry, Pittsburgh

  • John McIntyre says:

    I always appreciate the analyses of both writers. But on Syria: Isn’t there a dispute over whether U.S. troops are there legally? Wouldn’t the sensible solution be for Trump to say that, and then ask Congress for an Authorization to Use Military Force (or similar order) and/or a declaration of war against someone? Congress does have a role here, and Trump should demand they fill it.

  • Charles Dorfman says:

    I follow you fine gentlemen with the help of John Batchelor. You have such great insight into the Middle East and its many clashing groups of Jihadists. I don’t know much, but I do know you are experts, and I am not. As such, I say this with a lump in my throat, but I am not convinced. If by staying, you can iterate a vastly different strategy than one we have deployed for close to two decades, I could entertain issuing more patience. But from what I am reading in your own words, what have we gained in all this time, with all this pain, and all this treasury? Afghanistan is still a mess, Pakistan is still a freeloader on the USA treasury, Iraq has been made a surrogate for Iran, Syria has been turned into a killing zone, Turkey is now an Islamist run State. Am I wrong? The current POTUS first move was to attempt the creation of a Sunni alliance that could counterbalance Iran and control its own Jihadi criminals. Isn’t that a better way? We are fighting in areas and against cultures we do not understand and where we are not wanted. How is staying the course going to change that?

  • Conrad vonBlankenburg says:

    Your paragraph four is a contradiction. The “Endless Wars” is and has been the Islamo Fascist goal all along. The have achieved their intended plan by defeating us on the battle field, at home and worst of all in our massive DEBT! Over Two Hundred TRILLION if the unfunded liability is included. The enemy and their partners murdered over 70,000 Americans in America last year along using Chemical Weapons grown in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They Won! We Lost! We have been defeated and destroyed. Again!

  • James says:

    I can not tolerate losers. I have no sympathy whatsoever for losers.

    I have always felt that if we were to end up losing Afghanistan it would be because of Iraq. There is a certain ‘window of opportunity’ in time in which to succeed in adventures such as these. For example, we should have told them long ago something like, “Look, you’ve got 3 years to get your sh?t together. Because when that time is up we’re out of there.”

    We elect a president every 4 years, a House of Representatives every 2 years, and senators every 6 years. Many of the countries we currently have our soldiers fighting in don’t have that luxury and, like Afghanistan, are under virtual dictatorships. They can just wait US out. They can fight the war by generations and not by election cycles.

    Oh yes, I know (like the saying goes): “Hindsight is always 20/20.” Hopefully, if something like this ever happens again, we’ll learn from this mistake. The important thing to consider here is that there is a fixed time limit to adventures such as these that has to be set and strictly adhered to.

    Give them (for example) 3 years to get their crap together; and make it loud and clear to them that when that 3 year time frame is up we’re out of there. That’s how it needs to be done.

    If it were up to me it would be different. But, it is not up to me. We need to be in it to win it or we should just stay the hell out of it.

  • timactual says:

    “For years, the Taliban and al Qaeda have told their followers that victory is on the horizon.”

    So? That’s what our leaders have been telling their followers, too. The phrase “Light at the end of the tunnel” comes to mind.

  • Mikey3d says:

    Same logic used with Southeast Asia, via the domino theory, which was wrong. The Pashtun don’t like anyone but themselves. Trump should declare support for a Pashtun nation which includes 20% of Pakistan. That would set off the Iranians and Pakistanis into a complete meltdown. Red on red folks.

    • SherryOnTop says:

      Also, Trump should announce open support for Sikhs of who live in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. But for that, Trump needs some support too.

  • Sid Finster says:

    OK, so if pulling out is not an option, what do you propose instead?

    Please provide specific, concrete examples of what you would do, whom you would use to do it with, and do tell us how you would garner political support and funding for any of these proposals.

  • StrategicPak says:

    In this piece, America has been described as someone who sees Pakistan through “Indian perspective”. Trump now seems to be taking of “Indian glasses” to see Pakistan. Clearly, equating Kashmir with insurgency in Afghanistan wouldn’t be a fair thing. Afghanistan and Terrorism is a totally different thing and Kashmir issue is totally a different thing which is already in U.N from a long time. India has, very well, been using America for its own interest in Afghanistan while America doesn’t seem to be utilizing its improving diplomatic relation with India. U.S clearly seemed ‘helpless’ when India made a multi-billion arms deal with Russia. The same way, India is using U.S against Pakistan and Kashmir. Pakistan has achieved some great victories in the war on terror but finally, due to American behavior, Pakistan is not happy which is obviously not a positive sign for the US.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis