Here Are 3 Bad Reasons We're Still in Afghanistan

There is no military solution to be had. It's time to simply come home.


"[Y]ou can't meet a general anywhere in the Pentagon who believes there is a military solution to the Afghan war," Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) mused in a recent radio interview. "That's the main question I harangue them with when they come up to Capitol Hill to testify before our committees: I say, 'Is there a military solution?' And they all admit there is none. There's been mission creep that's now nation building, but they all admit no military solution."

So why are we still fighting America's longest war? Why continue our military intervention in Afghanistan after nearly two decades, when there is no prospect of anything resembling success?

The question becomes all the more pressing given that key players in the Trump administration appear to agree with the Pentagon consensus Paul describes. President Donald Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to end the war, and he ordered a partial reduction in the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in December. His current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has acknowledged that peace in Afghanistan will have to be achieved via Afghan-led negotiations, not U.S. military action. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said the same, arguing last year there is no "military victory" available to the United States. Rather, he said, "the victory will be a political reconciliation."

Paul proposed three explanations for this gap between word and deed. The first is a personnel matter: "The problem is that several of [Trump's] advisers that he has appointed don't necessarily agree with him" about getting out of Afghanistan, Paul said. "So they either countermand his sentiments or talk him into delaying actually ending the war."

Trump's national security advisers have been particularly pernicious in this regard. First the office was occupied by H.R. McMaster, who endorsed "state-building in places like Afghanistan and Iraq," and consistently seemed to steer Trump toward unjustifiably aggressive foreign policies. The seat is now filled by John Bolton, whose complete and reckless hawkishness is detailed anew in a lengthy New Yorker profile this week. "Bolton is a hawk," Trump reportedly said of his adviser shortly before hiring him. "He's going to get us into a war." At the very least he's managed to keep us in half a dozen, and it is unlikely Trump will be able to deliver on his more sensible foreign policy impulses so long as voices like these have his ear.

The second problem Paul identified is that "there are still a number of people [in Washington] who are of what I call the Vietnam village strategy—take one more village and we'll get a better negotiated settlement." Pompeo certainly seems to be of this ilk, describing the U.S. position in the Afghan peace talks as one of ensuring the Taliban realizes "they can't win on the ground militarily."

While it is true the U.S. military can skirmish with the Taliban forever, this is no argument for prolonging the war. Pompeo is no doubt right that Taliban leadership understands it cannot trounce the most powerful military on the planet, but that hardly means continued U.S. intervention has the Taliban cornered. On the contrary, the group has been resurgent in recent years, gaining control over larger portions of the country even after massive and costly U.S. military efforts. And if that's the case, as Paul said, "I don't want to send my kid, your kid, or my nephew to Afghanistan—because if there is no military solution, what is one more death going to do over there?"

It is utterly indefensible to spill more blood and treasure to, at best, maintain a stalemate. Negotiations, already underway, will proceed with or without U.S. boots on the ground. If anything, American military exit might imbue the talks with a fresh sense of urgency, prompting necessary compromises neither side is presently willing to make.

The third delaying factor is how the mission has morphed. "[W]e just need to acknowledge that our original mission was to go after those who plotted or attacked us on 9/11," Paul said, "and there's frankly none of them left….We're [now fighting] forces that are associated with forces that are associated with forces that are associated with somebody else. It's so tangential to have any link to 9/11 that it really doesn't exist."

That calls into question the legality of this evolving intervention, since the original Authorization for Use of Military Force specifically cited the 9/11 attacks. It also raises serious practical and strategic concerns. It serves the interests of neither the U.S. nor local populations for Washington to perpetually police the world, moving endlessly from one parochial fight to another, offering military solutions to problems that need political and diplomatic resolutions orchestrated by the people whose lives they'll affect.

Each of these obstacles—bad advice in Washington, a needless maintenance of stalemate, and strategically reckless mission creep—can and must be overcome if Trump really intends to make good on his promise of a new direction for American foreign policy. There is no military solution to be had here; it is time to simply come home.

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  1. "[W]e just need to acknowledge that our original mission was to go after those who plotted or attacked us on 9/11," Paul said, "and there's frankly none of them left…

    Trump can leave with one in his W column.

    1. Just like Syria back in December.

    2. ""Trump can leave with one in his W column."'

      Too late, Obama already put it in his W column.

    3. our original mission was to go after those who plotted or attacked us on 9/11

      So why haven't we attacked Saudi Arabia yet?

  2. War..
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothin’
    Say it again.

    1. Good God y'all!

  3. There is no military solution to be had that doesn't involve defeating Pakistan. If we are unwilling to do that, and we probably should be unwilling, then we shouldn't be in Afghanistan, because there is no way to win there without taking on Pakistan.

    Bush's handling of Afganistan was actually a much bigger mistake with worse long term consiquences than his invading Iraq. All of this goes back to Bush and Rumsfeld's complete misunderstanding of the situation in Afghanistan and their setting up absurd and unrealistic goals for our intervention there. What should have been a punitive expidition to catpure or kill the leaders of Al Quada and the Taliban turned into an impossible exercise in nation building. Worse still, Rumsfeld's belief in the revolution in military affairs caused the US not to send in adaquate numbers of US forces to accomplish the job of killing or capturing those responsible for 911. Had the US done a proper invasion, Bin Ladin and the entire Taliban leadership would have died at Tora Bora and we could have gone home and been done with it.

    1. word, but where's the graft in that?

    2. "There is no military solution to be had that doesn’t involve defeating Pakistan."

      Trouble is a dust up with Pakistan might incur American casualties. The war in Afghanistan is going very nicely. Last month, April, there was not a single American casualty. This is a war that we can get behind. Someone might get killed in your Pakistan adventure.

  4. There are many countries that exclude you from the security and military situation you are living in. These countries are Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Singapore
    Get your trip and change your psychological status at a reasonable price for everyone with us .


  5. ""There is no military solution to be had that doesn’t involve defeating Pakistan.""

    I don't think defeating Pakistan would make a difference. With the Taliban, you are fighting an ideology not just a group of people. The ideology will not die with the defeat of Pakistan.

    1. It would deprive them of a safe haven from which to attack Afghanistan. Go into the frontier of NW Pakistan and murder the bastards where they stand and they would no longer be able to operate with impunity there. That would go a long ways to clearing them out of Afghanistan.

      But Pakistan is a nuclear armed country. Doing that is just not a practical option. So, the only sollution is to declare victory and go home. If there is another attack on the US launched from Afghanistan, you go back and do the punitive expidition you should have done in the first place. I really don't think the Taliban would want us to come back if we left. So, I don't think they would be a threat to anyone but other Afghans and themselves.

      1. ""It would deprive them of a safe haven from which to attack Afghanistan.""

        We defeated Afghanistan and we can't even keep Afghanistan from being a safe haven. Why would Pakistan be different?

        1. It wouldn't but that wouldn't matter. Let them ruin NE Pakistan. As long as they have to attack there, they can't attack Afghanistan.

          1. I'm confused.

            Why in the world would there be a difference between them fucking up NE Pakistan and fucking up Afghanistan? Why should we prefer one over the other.

            1. Pakistan isn't Afghanistan. The only way you could ever stabilize Afghanistan is to create a buffer zone in Pakistan.

              1. How would you create a buffer zone unless you took out the Pakistan leaders? Then you are involved with nation building in Pakistan. How long should we have troops in Pakistan?

                1. You couldn't. It is totally impractical. That is my point.

              2. But the the only way to stabilize Pakistan would be to create a buffer zone in India. And then the only way to stabilize India would be to create a buffer zone . . .

                You see where this goes? The revolution will not be complete until it meets itself.

                1. No. There's not an infinite number of circumstances of countries to fight, it's just that teo countries, one of which has nukes and modern equipment is more price than we're willing to pay.

                  It's not all of Pakistan and certainly not all of South Asia that's acting as a safe haven or sending people to fight. In a theoretical world where it really a vital national interest to defeat the Taliban and we put all our effort behind it and either intimidated Pakistan into leaving us alone or just fought them outright we could win. But who wants to put that kind of lives and money on the line just to moderately improve* Afghanistan for as long as we have troops there.

                  *for a certain definition of improve. I mean I think the Taliban are awful, obviously there are a lot of of Afghanis who don't agree.

          2. They have been operating in both countries. You don't really think all of the ones in Afghanistan would run to Pakistan to fight do you?

            Attack them in one and they will run to the other and attack there. Unless you have a plan of impenetrable border security. How many troops do you plan to deploy in Pakistan?

    2. Lots of ideologies don't have the military structure to occupy territory and be a persistent threat. That's why there are Neo Nazis, Communists, Antifa and Klansmen in our country and we can afford to laugh at them.

      It's not our job to force the ideological evolution that produced America all around the world. If the Afghans and Pakistanis want to be free of the Taliban, that's up to them to take the necessary steps.

      1. I agree. All that matters to us is that they understand they can't harbor terrorists who attack us. If they don't do that, it is their business what kind of country they have not ours.

        1. No need to invade Pakistan for that. Punitive strikes as needed. However, how long can you do that? 100 years? 1,000 years?

          1. As long as necessary. What other choice do we have? One of the many things the writers at reason fail to grasp is that you don't get peace until your enemies give it to you.

            1. ""What other choice do we have?"'

              Pack up, go home, and let the afghan's defend Afghanistan for themselves if needed.

              1. If they continue to attack us, we can't just stay home.

  6. President Fucking Moron is currently in the Rose Garden™ praying to his imaginary god for peace and stuff. Maybe he'll throw in a prayer for Afghanistan with the condition that they don't send their fake-god Muslim refugees over here with their measles and burqas and stuff. God bless all us white people, and God bless America.

  7. Why Trump let Bolton anywhere near the White House, I'll never understand.

  8. I have a real disgust at using my money for this. I have a real disgust at even being over there killing people for some chickenhawk ego-stroking.

    But I have no problem with sending soldiers there, specifically. They are volunteers, right? This damned war and all the others in that area have been going on for so long that all of them knew about it when they signed up. They are on their own, risk-wise, far as I am concerned.

  9. >>>offering military solutions to problems that need political and diplomatic resolutions orchestrated by the people whose lives they'll affect.

    okay and all, but when was the last diplomatic resolution orchestrated in the middle east?

    1. The Taliban want to kill everyone associated with the current Afghan govenrment down to the street sweepers. They are not the kind of people who issue idle threats. Only an ignoramous of Shackford's level could think there could be some kind of "diplimatic sollution" worked out with them.

      1. Yeah, actually they are the kind of people who issue idle threats.

        And, again, is there some reason why we should care? Or is it now our eternal obligation to ensure the safety of the afghani warlords?

        1. I am not saying we should. I am just saying we should have no illusions about what is going to happen if we leave. It will be a blood bath likely on a scale similar to the Khmer Rouge or something close. That doesn't mean we should stay, but we shouldn't pretend we can leave and nothing will happen either.

          1. I'm not so sure of that. Much of the afghan people don't give a shit about who rules. They will gladly grow a beard and follow the Taliban. They already proved that in the 90s.

            Ever see the documentary "The battle of Marjah"?

      2. Only an ignoramus of your caliber could think Shackford actually thinks that.

        1. >offering military solutions to problems that need political and diplomatic resolutions orchestrated by the people whose lives they’ll affect.

          Did you not see that in the article or are you just too stupid to understand what it means? With you stupid is always a good bet.

          1. Can you not apply intelligence to things you read? Are you literal only when it suits you?

  10. There is a military solution, you just won't like it. I agree that it's best to leave, but objectively speaking, at some point we're going to be forced to admit that if the military wants to win, there's no such thing as a moral conquest. Scorched earth tactics will be necessary, as will an actual occupation and annexation, not just skirmishes.

    1. This is true. We can always kill our way out of it. If we don't have the will to do that, we shoudln't be there.

  11. Explanation four: military contractors are making lots of money.

  12. From the point of view of some, the unwinnability necessitating a permanent US military presence in Afghanistan is a feature, not a bug. As sarcasmic said, there's lots of money to be made; and staying there forever gives us a forward base and listening post right at a major intersection of international affairs. If you still believe in the Anglo-American Empire, it's an ideal place for us to have our thumb in the pie.

    1. It also gives us a second country bordering Iran to have troops in.

  13. 1. Mineral exploration
    2. Bring Democracy to those that demand an Islamic theocracy.
    3. Fear of admitting another defeat.

  14. WWRD?*

    *what would Russia do?

  15. Did someone here actually say something so stupid as “ defeating Pakistan”?

    That is almost more idiotic than “winning Afghanistan”

    No wonder the government gets away with this charade.

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