US President Donald Trump is right to term America’s endless war in Afghanistan “ridiculous” after meeting with NATO generals in Washington on Wednesday, April 3.
The only argument is that this was a great mess and indeed a ‘ridiculous’ military adventure from day one. So Trump need not play up the pledges for increased military spending, while pushing for even more. He is also wrong to tell both the American and NATO generals that “great strides” have been made in Afghanistan militarily.
Instead, Trump and his neocon faction should be trying much harder to end the war in a responsible, sustainable, and humane manner. He should keep in mind that all elements of Afghan society, including Taliban moderates – in a civilian, not military, capacity – want an end to America’s longest war so that they could make peace with themselves and reconstruct the country the American-led “liberators” and “democracy” promoters destroyed. After 17 or so years of ultimately pointless, criminal mayhem, an apology plus reparations to the Afghan people would be a good start, too.
Lest the warmongers forget, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan has only gotten worse in recent months, with escalating violence and an increasingly unstable society. Presidential elections would fail to do much for the country if Trump continues to escalate the conflict by increasing the number of US-led occupying troops.
A withdrawal of US troops is the way forward. The Afghan government is facing increasing discontent and open opposition from key political backers, many of whom oppose occupation specially when it comes to the US talks with the Taliban.
This is not surprising. No one has benefitted from the war except for the ISIL militant groups and the War Party itself. They would lose considerable influence and power in any peace settlement with the Taliban. It is clear that the Trump administration does not have the appetite or endurance to see through a political end to the war that would avoid this. Peace will take years of sustained effort. However, there is an alternative: handing the process over to the Afghan government and people.
The Trump administration should also stop using vague notions of nation building to judge its non-existent progress in Afghanistan. The US is there to prolong the endless violence so it can justify the endless occupation. This way the Afghans won’t be able to stop their country from becoming a hub for transnational terrorism like it was in Iraq and Syria. This will also help fuel instability to an increasingly important region of the world.
A crucial part of accomplishing peace is not the escalation of the unnecessary conflict with more troops on the ground or playing up the pledges for increased military spending by both the US and the NATO. We saw what happened when they did just that in Iraq and Syria, and what it is doing to the blockaded people of Yemen. Now is not the time to needlessly repeat their pricy mistakes of the past.
There is also the political process to consider. The objective of any counterinsurgency is to give those people who have legitimate political grievances the ability to address these grievances through political process and not through violence. After all, most successful counterinsurgency operations end with negotiated settlement. This is why the news coming out of the latest rounds of meeting between Trump and NATO generals in Washington are not welcome news to anyone in the region, much less to the people of Afghanistan and their elected officials.
The US needs to prove that it is serious about peace talks because nothing in the past has shown it is a trustworthy actor. Withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan could pave the way for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Troop withdrawals followed with peace talks and national reconciliation efforts is the country’s best ticket to prosperity and best hope for Afghan stability and regional security. This is why it is in everyone’s interest to stop escalating the longest war in American history.