Wednesday, January 18, 2017

In Afghanistan, Trump will inherit a costly stalemate and few solutions - Washingtonpost

For President Obama, the war in Afghanistan has been a matter of profound ambivalence — a strategic necessity and an unmistakable burden.

He has talked about the United States’ interest in preventing the country from ever becoming a sanctuary for global terrorists. Just as often, he has spoken of ending the war and the limits of American military power, money, patience and time.

Nearly eight years after Obama began his presidency with a long and contentious Afghanistan strategy review, he is leaving behind for President-elect Donald Trump a war that reflects his divided outlook.

By most measures, the conflict is a stalemate. Afghan troops are fighting hard, but “the casualty rate is much higher than we would have hoped,” a senior defense official recently told reporters. Taliban forces are taking territory from the U.S.-backed government, but have not been able to seize and hold any major cities or towns.

“Clearly the situation is getting worse, but not to the extent that you see the Taliban winning or the Afghan government is clearly failing,” said Andrew Wilder, a vice president and Afghanistan expert at the United States Institute of Peace.

The United States’ longest and most expensive war — with the largest U.S. troop presence in a combat zone — was mostly absent from the presidential campaign. On the rare occasions Trump has spoken about Afghanistan, he has sounded as conflicted as his predecessor.

Trump has said the fight against extremist groups is his foreign policy priority. But he also has said that he wants to get the United States out of the nation-building business.

“I would stay in Afghanistan,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel this year. “I hate doing it. I hate doing it so much. But again, you have nuclear weapons in Pakistan, so I would do it.” - Read More


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