By Doug Bandow
The seemingly eternal war in Afghanistan continues. American forces have been on station for nearly 20 years, longer than the Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined.
Some $2 trillion have been spent. More than 6,000 U.S. service members and contractors have died, along with roughly 1,100 allied soldiers. Many more have been wounded, some suffering crippling injuries. Absent a speedy exit, those numbers will continue upward.
The U.S. is supposed to leave Afghanistan on May 1, the timetable agreed to by the Taliban. However, at his recent press conference President Joe Biden essentially admitted that American forces won’t be leaving then. He expressed hope that they would not be there next year.
Even if there was trust between Washington and the Taliban, that sentiment probably would not suffice. The American military has spent nearly two decades seeking to end the insurgents’ bid for power. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both increased the number of American personnel in Afghanistan before reducing them.
Moreover, Biden, despite joining his predecessor in criticizing “endless wars,” never committed to implementing the peace accord. Worse, the president is under significant pressure from the Pentagon, hawkish establishment media, mostly interventionist think-tank paladins, and a bipartisan war lobby, which heretofore have dominated Afghan policy. Typical was the Afghanistan Study Group—established by Congress and including former political and military figures who had backed and mismanaged the war—which came to the unsurprising conclusion that U.S. forces should stay. Never mind two decades of failure, even after America put in nearly 100,000 troops, and (largely European) allies added another 40,000. Acknowledging error was simply beyond members’ comprehension.
The best that co-chair Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of many architects of the present imbroglio, could offer was: “If we take advantage of the opportunity we have right now then there is at least a prospect of achieving that end state [a U.S.-friendly outcome] even as we recognize how difficult it will be.” That is supposed to be a serious argument for violating the withdrawal plan, putting troops at risk, and sticking around months or years more, with reinforcements likely necessary? Afghanistan is truly an endless war.
Of course, if Biden folds this time, similar claims will be advanced again whenever the possibility of withdrawal looms. Indeed, if negotiations between the Kabul government and Taliban continue to go badly, Biden will face pressure to do more militarily to strengthen Afghan forces. The Ghani government would have an incentive to hinder progress to justify a continued and even expanded American presence. Countries in the region also would push harder for delay, preferring that the U.S. continue to relieve them of responsibility for confronting the conflict.
Most of those advocating America’s forever role in Afghanistan assume that relative peace would continue. Thankfully, no American lives were lost over the last year, but that reflected the Taliban’s assumption that the U.S. was leaving. If the Pentagon keeps several thousand troops …read more
Via:: American Conservative
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