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No, Secretary Pompeo, America’s Strategy in Afghanistan is Not Working

July 12, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Afghanistan earlier this
week and declared that U.S. strategy there “is indeed working.”
Alas, evidence of success in America’s longest war is difficult to
find. On Saturday, just before the secretary made his hopeful
statement, an Afghan soldier killed Corporal Joseph Maciel of South
Gate, California, in yet another brazen insider assault on one of
our troops. The administration’s approach did not “work” for
him.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. had no choice but to target
al-Qaeda and its Afghan host, the Taliban government. Both were
quickly, if incompletely, defeated. The threat to America was
largely eliminated.

Today, al-Qaeda is mostly an inspiration to local affiliates,
such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, currently being targeted
in Yemen by a heavy U.S. bombing campaign. Osama bin Laden gained
sanctuary in next-door Pakistan, where American forces eventually
found him. Nonexistent in 2001, the Islamic State now takes credit
for many of the bloody attacks against civilians in Afghanistan
today.

Although the Taliban continues to contend for power, it is just
another insurgency in a world seemingly aflame. The group wants to
return Afghanistan to medieval-style rule, but has few ambitions
beyond that. What is left of al-Qaeda would gain nothing from a
Taliban victory, since the group can operate from most anywhere in
the world.

In short, Washington could have claimed “mission accomplished”
and brought its personnel home years ago. But it didn’t and is now
— by several measures — paying the price.

The green-on-blue killing
of an American soldier is just the latest indication that this war
has failed.

Nearly 17 years, 2,400 military and 3,500 contractor deaths, and
almost a trillion dollars later, U.S. forces remain on station in
Central Asia. Indeed, Donald Trump has upped force levels, expanded
CIA covert operations, and increased airstrikes. Overall,
Washington is set to spend $45 billion in Afghanistan this
year.

Despite recurring claims of progress and promises of
improvement, Kabul appears little closer to standing on its own.
When I visited Afghanistan as part of a NATO delegation a few years
back, the private, off-the-record comments of allied military
personnel, civilian contractors, and Afghans were invariably
caustic and pessimistic at best.

The government there is in permanent crisis. Poppy production,
which corrupts everything it touches, reached a new high last year.
The number of Taliban fighters is thought to have at least tripled
since 2014 to 60,000, and insurgents are active across the country,
even staging attacks with night vision equipment. Kabul is unsafe,
forcing the U.S. to ferry its personnel to the airport via
helicopter (a route I took multiple times without incident during
my visits).

The U.S. government …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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