Sunday, May 07, 2017

Trump wants a new Afghan surge. That’s a terrible idea - By DOUGLAS WISSING

The convoy of MRAPs lumbered across the moonscape of central Helmand Province, the epicenter of America’s futile, half-century-long effort to remake Afghanistan in its own image. Generations of American developers and soldiers intended to transform this austere landscape into a breadbasket and bastion of democratic values. Instead, they created the world’s largest opium poppy plantation, the heartland of the thriving Taliban-led insurgency.

Beginning in 2009, 20,000 U.S. troops fought bloody, though inconclusive battles in Helmand, before withdrawing in 2014. During that withdrawal, a team of soldiers and I were buttoned up inside the massive armored gun-trucks, juddering down rutted tracks as Pashtun men beside the road scowled and glared at us. The Afghans clearly weren’t valuing the American efforts. The navigator suddenly pointed—“IEDs.” Veering right, the MRAP driver managed to use “fuck” as a verb, adverb, adjective and noun in the same sentence. The tribesmen, yet un-subdued, were just waiting for their time.

The Taliban-led insurgency has grown at double-digit rates annually since 2005. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) just reported to Congress that security incidents throughout 2016 and continuing into the first quarter of 2017 reached their highest level since 2007. The insurgents now control about half of the country. Taliban shadow governments operate in virtually every province, and control several of them, including Helmand. Insurgents are pressuring government centers across the country, including besieged Kabul, where a suicide bomber blew up a U.S. military convoy on the doorstep of the U.S. Embassy this week.

Afghanistan today remains the largest U.S. military foreign engagement. From the peak of about 100,000 boots on the ground during the Obama-era surge, there are still almost 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus up to 26,000 highly paid contractors for the Department of Defense and other agencies. Each soldier costs about a million dollars a year. Economists estimate the Afghan war has already cost U.S. taxpayers around a trillion dollars. For the 2017 fiscal year, U.S. military and State Department operations in Afghanistan are costing about $50 billion—almost a billion dollars a week. (As a reference, the initial budget request for operations against ISIS in Syria was only $5 billion. - More, Politico

Trump wants a new Afghan surge. That’s a terrible idea


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