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More Money and Bodies for Would Be Kingmakers in Afghanistan

Don Rose 29 August 2017 No Comment

Should we be surprised that Donald Trump, who once strongly opposed the war in Afghanistan but also declared himself the most “militaristic” presidential candidate, has decided to put more money and cannon fodder into America’s longest war?


 That nearly-16-year war no one really believes is winnable?

 A  war where no one even knows what “winning” looks like?

  A perpetual war where as much money is absorbed by the corrupt Afghan government as is spent for the fighting itself?

  Ironically, of all of Trump’s advisors on international affairs, the only one who  might have made a powerful case for pulling out would be the recently departed and otherwise unlamented Steve “Darth” Bannon.

  But with all those generals running things at the White House–the so-called “adults” in the administration–it is no surprise at all. Somehow, some way, most of  the military have been in love with this war, posing one or another strategy from “counter terrorism” to “counter insurgency” to “nation-building” in one or another guise. Clearly, none of the strategies have worked–but they will say it’s because we haven’t put in sufficient money or manpower.

  George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan–which was already engaged in a civil war against the Taliban–took place in October 2001 after US intelligence determined that Al Quada and its leader Osama bin Laden had planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were giving shelter to Al Quada and refused to extradite the culprits. Eventually we  were joined by NATO and various allies.

  It didn’t take long to score victories over the Taliban and put Al Quada on the run. By December they were seeking exit to Pakistan at Tora Bora, but the Bush Administration  switched gears, departed Tora Bora and began work on the Iraq War, which had nothing to do with 9/11.  

 Iraq was possibly the greatest military mistake in modern world history. Never should have gone in, but  fought at Tora Bora and pursued Al Quada in Pakistan. Instead, we left troops in Afghanistan, losing thousands of lives, including more than 35,000 civilians and 4000 US and allied personnel.

  We supported the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai and his henchmen, where billions of dollars were basically stolen. (Chicagoans may remember our old Afghan restaurant, the Helmand, where Karzai, a relative of the owners, was at times the maitre d’ during a sojourn here before returning to lead his own country.)

  When Barack Obama came into office he was theoretically opposed to the Afghan War but for fear of alienating the military and his hawkish secretary of state, after much back and forth, numbers-crunching , tactical planning and military “games,” agreed to a 30,000-troop “surge” with a graduated pullout date. Announcing a pullout date is still considered by many as among the worst of several serious military-foreign policy errors of his administration.

 If you haven’t heard, Obama didn’t win but kept us sinking deeper into the sinkhole. Now Trump is doubling down on the grossest errors of his two predecessors. Should we have expected anything else? After all, it ain’t his money or kids at risk.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer 

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