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Afghanistan, the Longest War in American History

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

When President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing
troops from Syria, shock and hysteria filled Washington. The
screaming grew louder when it was reported that the president also
intended to remove half of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with the
rest likely to come home at the end of 2019.

Afghanistan is the longest war in American history, outlasting
the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and
Korean War combined. U.S. soldiers will soon be deploying
to a war that started before they were born. Today the Taliban is
advancing while the Kabul government is in disarray. Few believe
that the latter, irrespective of who is president, can survive
absent Washington’s support.

Both President Barack Obama’s and President Trump’s
Afghan strategy appeared designed to push the inevitable collapse
onto a future administration. Never mind that Americans still die
in Afghanistan. No official wants to be the one to declare that
thousands of lives and billions of dollars to have been wasted.

The issue is not how much
we invested and wasted in 17 years, but whether spending more in
the future can be justified.

Yet going into his presidency Trump stated: “Let’s
get out of Afghanistan.” However, he surrounded himself with
conventional thinkers as national security advisers, unwilling to
admit the obvious. Then he allowed himself to be talked into
temporarily increasing U.S. force levels.

However, the infusion of some 4,000 personnel could only slow
the Afghan government’s decline. The situation was bad in
2011, when I visited and allied force levels had peaked at 140,000
(110,000 of them American). The insurgency was barely contained and
virtually everyone I met outside of official briefings, including
U.S. troops, allied personnel, civilian contractors, and Afghan
officials, was pessimistic.

Today the totals are down to 30,000 and 14,000, respectively. In
theory the allies have trained a large Afghan security force, both
military and police, but estimates of the number of
“ghost” personnel, existing only for payroll purposes,
range up to a third. Casualties, attrition rates, and desertions
have soared. Kabul is constantly relying on its limited number of
better trained special forces. Moreover, observed Anthony Cordesman
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “U.S.
Special Operations troops increasingly [are] being deployed into
harm’s way to assist their Afghan counterparts.”

Is there any prospect of Kabul taking over its own security?
“Progress toward peace remains elusive,” admitted Glenn
A. Fine, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general. Gen.
Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Joint Staff and nominated
to head U.S. Central Command, stated: “If we left
precipitously right now, I do not believe they [the Afghans] would
be able to successfully defend …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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