Afghan War Update: Fail, Fail Again

According to General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command, several thousand more US troops will likely be sent to Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize Afghan governmental forces and to halt, and eventually reverse, recent Taliban gains.

Basically, the US is rewarding Afghan governmental forces for failure. The more they fail, the more aid the US sends in the form of money, weaponry, and troops. Naturally, warrior-corporations (among others) profit from this, so even though the Afghan war itself is unwinnable (you can’t win someone else’s civil war), someone always wins in the sense of making loads of money.

The motto for the US war in Afghanistan might go something like this: If at first you succeed (in defeating the Taliban in 2001), fail and fail again by overstaying your welcome and flailing around in a country that has a well-deserved reputation as “the graveyard of empires.”

There are several reasons why US folly in Afghanistan persists. First, there’s our national conviction that all wars must be won, else American credibility will be irreparably damaged. We’d rather persist in a losing cause than to admit defeat and withdraw. Smart, right?

Second is the domestic political scene. Afghanistan is already being advertised (by the New York Times, no less) as “Trump’s war.” Do you think “winner” Trump wants to be seen as backing away from a fight?

Third is the men in charge of the fight and how they see the war. Trump’s generals and top civilian advisers don’t see the Afghan war in terms of Afghanistan; they see it in terms of themselves and their global war on radical Islamic terrorism. They can’t be seen as “losing” in that global war, nor can they see themselves as lacking in toughness (especially when compared to the Obama administration), so queue up more troop deployments and future mission creep.

Parallels to Vietnam in the 1960s are immediate and telling. The refusal to admit defeat. Domestic politics. War in the name of containing a global enemy, whether it’s called communism or terrorism. Nowadays, since there’s no military draft and relatively few US troops are being killed and wounded, there’s little opposition to the Afghan war in the US Lacking an opposition movement like the one the US experienced during the Vietnam War, the Afghan war may well continue for generations, sold as it has been as a critical “platform” in the war on terror.

Two comments. First, we’ll never win the war in Afghanistan because that’s the only way we understand the country and its peoples: as a war. Second, as the saying goes in Afghanistan, the US has the watches, but the Taliban has the time. Sure, we have all the fancy technology, all the force multipliers, but all the Taliban (and other “insurgent” forces) has to do is to survive, biding its time (for generations, if necessary) until Americans finally see the light at the end of their own tunnel and leave.

It’s been sixteen years and counting, but we still don’t see the light. Maybe in another sixteen years?

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

14 thoughts on “Afghan War Update: Fail, Fail Again”

  1. Trump has an epiphany. “I’m pulling out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and sundry other quagmires and plowing the entire military budget into domestic causes. I’m smarter than all my predecessors.”
    If Trump made that call jackhammer crews would now be headed for Mt. Rushmore.

  2. Maybe it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Trump has promised to bring the troops home and end all the wars, thereby making America great again. So even though he spoke in garbled language on how he would do that, it could be that he really did have a plan in his head. After all, he said that only he could do it. So now we should maybe start thinking of what that plan could be.

    Indications of late are giving us some hints. There is now reason to believe that Trump’s plan is huge military force to win all the wars quickly and convincingly. He’s actually said that is what should have been done so it’s no more complicated than that. That is really the only way to make America great again and that will make Trump enormously popular with the people!

    The question only becomes whether he can do it and consolidate complete US control over all the ME countries that remain at question. It calls for capitulation to US demands by Russia and China and that could be accomplished by an overwhelming US show of force. Trump sees himself as invincible and he has invincible US military might behind him to prove it!

    1. Never mind mate i was in full agreement with you up to the last sentence.Hitler? gosh you need to stay away from those magic mushrooms .

  3. Trump’s go big in the ME is another failed plan…been there done that..16 long failed years..dozens of Generals..trillions of $$$ thousands of lives….no plan will work…Trump is an egotistical maniac that thinks he alone can fix things in the ME and thus make him the great leader of America and the world. Pride goes before that fall…in the process he will take us all down.

    1. Be cautious of what you say about Trump’s plans in the ME. You’re right about him being an egotistical maniac but you may not be right about him failing what he sets out to accomplish.

      Take him at his word and that’s what makes the whole thing so scary. He actually threatens to use unrestrained and unlimited force and so there will be no restraint contained by world opinion.

      A Psychopath will not allow himself to be defeated. The US can win any war or wars if there are no limits on the degree of military force that is applied. It’s just that other nuclear powers win too.

      Trillions of $$$$ and millions of lives being the least of Trump’s considerations.

      1. I have no illusions as to what mad-dog trump might do in the ME…he is very capable of massive escalations as well as the minor escalations currently being done. But he has no concept of the fog of war and the terrible consequences of his actions. The ME is not for us. His massive uses will bring us down. Russia, China…Iran…and heaven knows who else will respond. I have said many times…he will be our last president. The Imperial empire is fast coming to an end..and Donnie and his Pentagon will be the catalyst. We are screwed.

        1. His minor escalations are the prelude to making them major escalations.
          Trump has surrounded himself with the military minds that can convince him that the endgame is now world domination by the US/West.
          The Brics are rising and unless stopped by economic and military force, will likely succeed in rising to the position of control over the world’s resources.
          Trump’s your man for sure.
          If you’re ‘truly’ antiwar and disagree then we want to hear from you. It better be a good argument though!

          So first off, let’s get Raimondo back on our side.

        2. Indeed. He’s like Westmoreland if Westy had become CiC. There was another against the Front Nationel pour Liberation Algerique. My dad went to that one. Kind of an inter-bellum but really, there hasn’t been a single day (I got this stat at the knees of VFW and American Legion vets) when there wasn’t hostilities in which the U.S. military was involved from 12 NOV 1918.

          “we” carpet bombed South Vietnam, didn’t work.
          Add in some more bombings in NORTH Vietnam and still no go. Just killed a whole mess of folks including about 50k Americans and more from collateral damage like Agent Orange. One war merged into the next, and the next…

  4. All the Pope’s horses and all the Pope’s Men couldn’t bring about a win in the Crusades and instead killed a lot of their fellow Christians over the centuries, which some Christians find to be embarrassing and/or just freakin’ tragic.

    Bungalow Bill aka William Westmoreland kept telling us the same stupid stuff about VietNam, all we needed to do was kill a lot more Charlies. The body counts never conquered anybody for more than a couple of days at most. There was a great deal of Crusader talk then as well.

    The Crusades, their associated stupid ideas like the forbidden books list and the Inquisition was officially stopped in 1966. Also the Vatican officially allowed Copernicus and Galileo to be let out of purgatory. Only 5 centuries late.

    In other news, South Park now has another movie YAY! This one is titled “Fractured, but whole” Their first one made me very glad I had given up taking acid many years before, or it would have had my brains for breakfast.

    That’s kind of off-topic but the whole mess is so … messed up… that a little comic relief is called forth.

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