Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear spoke with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, about Washington’s presence in Afghanistan and whether the Trump administration may be considering a fresh surge of troops in the country.
Having just returned from Afghanistan, a country she’s visited 22 times since 2010, Kelly said it’s difficult to pin down what the White House may be planning, because "The Trump administration is very erratic and unpredictable, but it does seem that the Trump administration is not terribly interested in matters of foreign policy."
She added, "Even a militarist who is convinced that war is the only answer to troubles might be given pause by the fact that the US in Afghanistan has not been able to oust or overcome or even significantly limit the Taliban. The Taliban has gained increasing power over the years while the United States has moved towards its 16th year being in a war in Afghanistan."
During his visit, Mattis said the US is "under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission," and that "2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism."
Kelly remarked, "I don’t know if it’s true to say the US military stands shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan military, which comparatively is extremely underprotected."
She explained that one of the reasons why the extremists have been so successful is because they’re motivated by principle and religious zeal, while Afghan soldiers often join their country’s military as a means of survival.
Kelly noted that there have also been issues of corruption in the Afghan military, with one New York Times article positing that 1.45 million firearms have gone missing in the 15 years the US has been in Afghanistan, suggesting that the US is unwittingly arming militants. There have also been incidents of wages to being paid to soldiers that don’t exist, with corrupt officials pocketing the money.
Kelly said conditions are so dire that some Afghans sign up for the military just to receive a weapon so they could sell it.
"It isn’t that Afghan people are untrustworthy, it’s that they’re desperate … There’s so much hunger, near starvation, there are so many people without any employment whatsoever because the country in these 16 years … has steadily declined in terms of the most basic evaluations of the quality of life."
Loud & Clear Host Brian Becker asked how the Afghan people feel after nearly 16 years of aggression from the US.
Kelly said that, while in Afghanistan, her hosts would ask her questions, like "'Do parents in your country really think that by sending their sons over to risk their lives in Afghanistan they’re going to affect terrorism?' because they know that the source of terror that Americans have been taught to fear certainly isn’t coming from Afghanistan. I think they know it’s foolhardy and futile for the US to prolong this war."