William J. Astore on Troop ‘Reduction’ in Afghanistan

Photo that allegedly persuaded Trump that Afghanistan wasn’t a lost cause

Trump was elected president in 2016 partly because he railed against America’s wasteful wars. So, what did his advisers talk him into? A mini-surge of troops to Afghanistan. I still recall the odd news of Trump being shown photos of Afghan women in skirts (vintage 1972) to convince him that westernization and modernization of Afghanistan was possible.

Several thousand additional U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan in 2017, predictably achieving nothing of note. A little more than two years later, we have another item of “big” news today, according to CNN:

The Trump Administration is preparing to announce a long-awaited reduction of US troops in Afghanistan, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN. There are between 12,000 and 13,000 US troops in the country right now, and the US has maintained a solid presence throughout the 18-year war in the area. This drawdown would remove up to 4,000 troops, with more possible reductions in the future, the official said. That matches the claim Trump made on Fox News Radio in August that his administration would take the number “down to 8,600.” The reduction comes at the same time the US is restarting peace talks with the Taliban, and some worry the troop drawdown could be seen as a concession to the terrorist group.

Where to begin with this CNN snippet?

  1. The “reduction” is not a reduction but a return to previous troop levels at the end of the Obama administration.
  2. The US“has maintained a solid presence”? Good god. You’d never know about all the bombing, droning, and killing the US has done over the last 18+ years. Or is that the “solid presence” we’ve been maintaining?
  3. The troop “drawdown” as a “concession” to the Taliban? Guess what: The Taliban aren’t going anywhere, and they’re winning. A few thousand US troops, either as a “plus-up” or “drawdown,” have had and will have no impact on the reality on the ground.

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or do both. Perhaps my dad put it best: “We laugh to hide the tears.”

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 wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

4 thoughts on “William J. Astore on Troop ‘Reduction’ in Afghanistan”

  1. William J. Astore on Troop ‘Reduction’ in Afghanistan

    How many western “defense contractors” (ie mercenaries) are in Afghanistan?

    According to the Pentagon (ie Department of War) there are 30,000 “defense contractors” in Afghanistan as of January 2019.


    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from smallwarsjournal a report titled:

    Contractors in Afghanistan are Fleecing the American Taxpayer

    Further, there were nearly 27,000 defense contractors operating in the country at the time, outnumbering U.S. uniformed personnel by about 2:1. Could it really be that the contracting model the U.S.-led coalition continues to rely on is deeply flawed and ineffective on the ground?


  2. One way to pull out totally from Afghan & keep entire area from blowing up into tribal anarchy that might spill into India and cause world war is to, dare I say, be friendly and supportive, not hostile, to Afghan neighbors like Iran, Russia Pakistan. Like stop the buildup in the oceans, stop the drones, and settle up with Iran. We are about to have a nuclear war with Iran why? I forget.

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