Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Will Donald Trump Embark on an Endless Crusade in Afghanistan? - National Interest

Ted Galen Carpenter
The U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is now well into its sixteenth year, making it America’s longest foreign war. Worse, there is no end in sight. In fact, military leaders are trying to convince President Trump to escalate U.S. involvement once more by sending several thousand additional troops into the fray. Pundits and foreign-policy commentators are engaged in a cottage industry to formulate yet more strategies to make the Afghanistan mission finally succeed.

There has been an American military presence in that unhappy country for so long that it is sometimes difficult to remember that the original purpose was both focused and limited. U.S. leaders justified the initial invasion in October 2001 as a necessary response to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. Foreign fighters belonging to Al Qaeda had used the country as a safe haven and base of operations to plan and execute their devastating assault. The Taliban government of Mullah Omar had treated Osama bin Laden and his followers as honored guests, enabling them to carry out their plans.

That behavior caused a decisive change in U.S. policy toward Kabul. American officials had always viewed the Taliban regime with understandable distaste, given its treatment of women, the desecration of irreplaceable historical monuments, and the overall brutal, reactionary policies. But Washington did not view the Taliban itself as a security threat that warranted U.S. intervention—until the regime became an enabler to Al Qaeda.

In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials repeatedly stressed that defeating Al Qaeda—and, if possible, killing or capturing Bin Laden—was the primary objective. Overthrowing Omar’s government was not initially a stated goal. Washington did demand, however, that Kabul sever its ties with Al Qaeda and turn over Bin Laden and the other leaders to the United States. Only when Omar rejected those demands, did Washington pursue forcible regime change. Even then, U.S. leaders did not advocate a long-term war against that indigenous Afghan faction, however odious its social policies might be.

The United States did engage in military cooperation with the Northern Alliance, the principal armed faction opposing the government in Kabul, when Washington launched the invasion of Afghanistan. Tactically, the association with the Northern Alliance paid off. Alliance personnel provided most of the ground forces while the United States supported them with devastating air power. Their joint offensive ousted the Taliban in a matter of weeks.- Read More

Will Donald Trump Embark on an Endless Crusade in Afghanistan


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