According to information from the media, Trump is unhappy that his military leaders haven’t formulated a long-term strategy for winning the War on Afghanistan and are instead looking only at short-term tactical solutions. The President campaigned on an anti-war platform, yet he also promised to be tough on terrorism, so he’s caught himself in a conundrum when it comes to Afghanistan.
On the one hand, the US is clearly losing the war, and both the Taliban and Daesh are on the upsurge, with the former controlling or influencing roughly half of the country’s territory. Although there are many differences between the two groups, the US designates them both as terrorists, hence why Trump has a publicly plausible reason in the eyes of the American public to increase the military’s commitment to the conflict. That being said, the American people are exhausted by the war and have little patience to see it indefinitely drag on even longer than the 16 years that it’s already been waged for, and the endemic corruption associated with it as revealed by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction disgusts a lot of people.
The core of the President’s decision making calculations comes down to whether he’s going to go with his populist side in downscaling the US’ formal military footprint in Afghanistan, or if he’ll give in to the military-industrial complex in going forward with his generals’ plans for another troop surge. The catch, though, is that even if he doesn’t agree to the surge, he might hatch a crafty workaround to still allow informal American forces to remain in the country through the use of private military contractors, as has been reportedly suggested by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and a few of his friends and fellow presidential advisors who are CEOS of relevant companies, such as Erik Prince from what was previously called Blackwater and Stephen Feinburg from Dyncorp.
And here’s the kicker – whether it’s ultimately uniformed US troops or private mercenaries contracted out by the Pentagon, any potential military surge might not even be about “fighting terrorism” like it could be claimed, but about protecting Afghanistan’s $1 trillion mineral reserves that The New York Times reported late last month Trump is supposedly interested in extracting.
We discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Jalees Hazir, an independent writer from Pakistan and Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, research Analyst at the Global Village Space who focuses on strategic affairs of the South Asian region and Counter Terrorism.
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