Trump signs on to forever war in Afghanistan

Friday, 08 Sep, 2017

Leaflets are dropped "to gain support of the Afghan national government and rid out the Taliban".

Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, U.S. forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban.

Of course, the USA government should have introspectively reached the conclusion that U.S. interventionism in the Middle East had helped create the problem, or at least exacerbated it and had directed it more against the United Sates. Sixteen years into the war, Mr. Trump is increasing the United States military presence in Afghanistan. He warned Pakistan that its partnership with the USA can not survive if Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists.

Around 300 Marines returned to Helmand in April, a fraction of the more than 20,000 stationed in the poppy-growing province when it was the centerpiece of the U.S. invasion. But against the backdrop of the current momentum gained by insurgency, it would be hard to maintain the existing stalemate for a long period of time as Taliban have registered their appearances in areas previously considered secure. To understand bin Laden's motivation for the attacks is not to condone such brutal atrocities, but to attempt to find a quiet change in US policy that might take the fire out of the Islamist jihad.

The Asia Foundation surveyed the situation in Afghanistan in 2016, finding that more than 90 percent of Afghan respondents reported fear of encountering the Taliban.

It is part of the "operational readiness cycle" launched by the Marines that takes war-weary Afghan soldiers off the battlefield for 12 weeks of training and rest. "According to relatives of boys recruited by the Taliban, by the time they are 13, Taliban-educated children have learned military skills including use of firearms, and the production and deployment of IEDs", the report said.

But the insurgents are still on the offensive, carrying out a number of suicide attacks in Helmand in recent weeks.

Whether Trump's new approach will work or not depends mostly on how it is played at the operational and tactical level to achieve stability for the U.S. and the region at large, but one thing is for certain: trying the same thing over and again expecting a different result is unlikely to get the USA anywhere.

"Our army is not mature enough to fight alone", said Ahmadzai.

Citizens of Afghanistan have reacted in fury and disbelief after two airstrikes carried out by United States and Afghan forces targeting militants left over two dozen civilians dead at the end of last month.

In 2009 a box of leaflets dropped from a British Royal Air Force plane landed on and killed a young Afghan girl in Helmand after it failed to open in mid-air.

But critics have questioned what a few thousand fresh USA troops can do that previous forces - who numbered some 100,000 at the height of the fighting - have not. Though Trump did not clearly mention how much more troops would be sent to Afghanistan, Pentagon is mulling to hike the numbers to 10,900 from existing 8000. More information will be added when it becomes available. Islamabad wants to ensure that the Afghan government listens to Pakistan. Hence, while it is willing to challenge the USA on its comment, it has yet to evolve any strategy to counter U.S. plans for India. No one claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, but both Taliban and Islamic State militants are active in the province.

"This strategy only gives the (Afghan) government breathing space". He said victory would be well-defined, but outlined only vague benchmarks for success, like dismantling al-Qaida and preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan.

Others have not lost hope.

More than 13,000 foreign forces are now stationed in Afghanistan for the Resolute Support mission to help Afghan forces in the fields of training, advising and backing them in the war on insurgents.

The Georgian Defense Ministry, however, noted that three Georgian military personnel participating in the NATO Resolute Support mission were injured, including a senior lieutenant who suffered critical injuries requiring surgery.