September 10, 2019

Afghanistan Is a Tough Sell for America

There are four options for the Long War against the Taliban. None is appealing.

The revelation that the Trump administration called off a summit with Taliban and Afghan leaders slated to take place at Camp David has caused some consternation. But both the justification for the negotiations and their suspension are understandable.

First of all, it needs to be said that the talks with the Taliban were not President Donald Trump’s idea. Barack Obama started them, and during the Obama administration, those talks led to the release of the “Taliban Dream Team” in exchange for a deserter. They were a bad idea then, and still are a bad idea now. However, at this point, continuing the talks was an understandable bad idea prior to the Taliban admitting they were carrying out car bombings and other attacks to gain leverage.

Why? Because, at this point, America has four options in Afghanistan:

  • Win the war by a massive surge of forces into the country where 2,296 American troops have died in a war fought for close to 18 years now (as of this coming October 7)

  • Muddle along as we are now, leaving the fight to Special Operations Command

  • Negotiate a deal of some sort

  • Lose by just pulling out

Until the cancellation of the talks, America was doing a combination of options two and three. America arguably lost the chance to carry out option one when Obama announced a timetable-based strategy in Afghanistan back in 2009, but that was set up by earlier mistakes by George W. Bush, notably the failure to expand America’s military in the aftermath of 9/11.

While his immediate actions in the wake of the unprovoked attacks made America safer, the failure to aggressively defend those actions in the wake of lies peddled by the Leftmedia ranks as an immense blunder. Had Bush shown a quarter of the fight in defending the Long War against those lies that Trump has shown with Hollywood charlatans on Twitter, America might be in much better strategic shape now.

But he didn’t. We saw the heroes who got Khalid Sheik Mohammed to talk receive dishonorable mistreatment at the hands of politicians from both parties, with John McCain and Dianne Feinstein being two of the most prominent perpetrators. That dishonorable treatment included leaving those who answered the country’s call to do a difficult job to twist in the wind as the “Gitmo Bar” and ACLU turn America’s own legal system on those who defended it on behalf of members of al-Qaida.

We saw military readiness decline badly, and the War on Terror went badly off track. Bush’s failure to expand the United States military meant that China eventually felt emboldened to pursue a more aggressive posture in the South China Sea, while Russia launched aggression against Georgia and the Ukraine.

NATO declined as well, and also failed to meet obligations in terms of defense spending. Trump then got flak for rightly calling out Germany and Canada, among other countries.

But NATO’s failures were not the only thing that led many Americans to think that Europe was content to coast and let America fight the War on Terror alone. Some NATO allies investigated or even prosecuted American intelligence operatives for their actions in the War on Terror. NATO allies refused to fight alongside America in Iraq.

And in the meantime, especially under Obama, our troops had their hands tied behind their back with overly restrictive rules of engagement. As America prematurely pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the fight was turned over to Special Operations Command. We can’t help but wonder if recent controversies are partially due to the fact that these elite troops bear most of the burden of the fight against radical Islamic jihadists, making multiple deployments.

The fact is, talking with the Taliban after they harbored Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida leadership is not a good look. Then again, neither is sending American troops to fight and die when we have no clear plan for victory — much less the will to carry it out. The Taliban’s recent actions, though, show that the latter is the lesser of the two evils — and thankfully, President Trump seems to be acting accordingly.

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