But, he claimed, justifying his flip-flop, he has a "new" strategy for "victory" in the war torn nation, more than 16 and a half years since the US first invaded following the 9/11 attacks. What exactly is that "new" strategy? Based on his prime-time televised address from Fort Myer in Arlington, VA, it's not entirely clear. Then again, neither is whatever the hell is going on in Afghanistan. "It's complicated," my guest explains today.
Joining me to try and help us understand America's longest war and where it goes from here under the ownership of Donald Trump is blogger, historian and longtime Middle East/South Asia expert JUAN COLE, of the University of Michigan. Professor Cole, who has been writing about this "invisible war" at his "Informed Comment" blog since 2002, describes the difficulties faced by the last three US Presidents in Afghanistan — not to mention previous colonial powers from other nations — and how Trump's plans appear to be both different and the same as his two predecessors'.
If President Obama was unable to succeed with his counter-insurgency strategy with 100,000 US troops, it seems unlikely that Trump, with some 12,000 soon to be there, will do much better with his "not nation building — killing terrorists" strategy.
"There's no real danger the Taliban are going to take over the (Afghan) government and kick us out," Cole tells me, in trying to explain why we are still there. "However, if the US got out, I don't imagine that the government in Kabul would last more than a year."
So, is it possible to ever get out, at this point? What good has 16+ years of bombing, 1 trillion in tax-payer dollars and the lives of some 3,500 US troops — not to mention untold millions of Afghans — actually accomplished? We discuss the roots and the reasons for the ongoing quagmire and much more with the good professor.
"Whatever resources and capacity Afghanistan had to be an independent country were destroyed from 1978 forward, once the (Soviet) Communists took over, and then Reagan conducted what I call the 'Reagan Jihad'," Cole explains. "He got all the Muslim fundamentalists all together — including what became al-Qaeda — to kill the Communists. Since that time, since 1978 forward, Afghanistan has been roiled and in turmoil. I figure a couple million people have been killed. The country has no real resources. It's one of the poorest countries in the world. So this is just not a place, especially given what was done to it in the last 30 years, that is very likely to stand up a government. This is one of the reasons the US is stuck there."
"The thing that puzzles me — I can't entirely understand it — is that no one in the United States cares about Afghanistan. No one cares if we're there or we're not there. If troops are killed over there, it hurts me in my gut. I'm an Army brat. But they put it on page 17 of the Washington Post. And it never comes on cable news," says Cole, adding: "It's an invisible war."
After that conversation today, a quick look at Trump's domestic war with the leadership of his own party and others, before we finally turn to Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report, on how corporate lobbyists from Monsanto, Exxon and other major corporations continue to game the system for their own profits, while playing the rest of us for suckers.
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