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Trump to Give Pentagon Power to Increase Troop Levels in Afghanistan

After 16 years and no convincing plan to finally eliminate all internal discord in sight, President Donald Trump will be giving the Pentagon free rein to add more troops to the U.S.'s ill-defined efforts in Afghanistan, reports the Washington Post and The Hill today.

U.S. Army/Foter.comU.S. Army/Foter.com

The U.S.'s commanders on the ground there have been wanting at least a "few thousand" more troops for months.

As the Post reports:

The decision from the White House comes the same day [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee that "we are not winning" in Afghanistan. Mattis said the Taliban was surging throughout the country and that he planned to present lawmakers with a strategy for the United States' longest-running war by mid-July.

Mattis admits that even "winning" would not mean U.S. troops could ever actually leave Afghanistan.

The new troops, if deployed, would "provide more fire and air support to the Afghans. Airstrikes and artillery, they reasoned, would give the Afghan forces breathing room to build a more effective force."

Currently, 8,400 or so U.S. troops are there, along with 5,000 NATO troops. The running tally of U.S. dead for this seemingly endless mission is over 2,000, not to mention Afghan civilians, over 3,000 of whom died in fighting in just 2016. This is a war whose only U.S.-security appropriate goal—destroying the active ability to use the country as a fomenter of terror attacks on the U.S.—was accomplished months after it began, way back in 2001.

Although our goals in Afghanistan are unclear and our means to achieve them have not yet been demonstrated, Trump is now in line with the GOP establishment as represented by Sens. John McCain (Ariz) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) in wanting to ramp it up again. Trump has presided over troop increases in Syria and Iraq as well, despite running occasionally on rhetoric opposed to feckless interventions abroad.

The Hill reports Mattis assuring lawmakers that Trump hasn't given him "some carte blanche to draw up ... a number that's out of step with the strategy."

But there really isn't any strategy. As the late Michael Hastings, whose reporting helped cost former Afghan force leader Gen. Stanley McChrystal his job, noted years ago, and nothing has changed, "U.S. forces are not fighting and dying to combat terrorists, but are fighting and dying in local political disputes."

Our military and diplomatic corps has never quite mastered the complicated tribal chaos the U.S. has chosen to stick itself in, and Hastings' reporting led him to concluded that U.S. troops leaving any specific valley in Afghanistan "is as meaningless as staying in those valleys—no impact on our national security or the stability in Afghanistan whatsoever."

Both we and our Afghan allies have done a terrible job actually using our manpower and money in any sensible or effective way, and as chronicled in Joshua Partlow's depressing but informative 2016 book A Kingdom of Their Own, nothing at all about Afghanistan's history in the time since we sent troops there gives any reason for optimism that an effective and un-corrupt government is in the cards there to satisfy every U.S. concern.

But our main such concern has been pretty much taken care of. Trump should have thought of that rather than shrugging and handing power to intensify the impossible situation over there, and inevitably kill more U.S. troops to no good effect, to the Defense Department.

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  • paranoid android||

    The decision from the White House comes the same day [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee that "we are not winning" in Afghanistan. Mattis said the Taliban was surging throughout the country and that he planned to present lawmakers with a strategy for the United States' longest-running war by mid-July.

    Mattis admits that even "winning" would not mean U.S. troops could ever actually leave Afghanistan.

    OK, crazy idea, I'm throwing this out there, but have we considered just losing?

  • NEET||

    Gotta keep the military industrial complex rolling, my friend.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Nobody seems to understand that THESE COLORS DON'T RUN!

  • nicmart||

    They have sure faded often enough since WWII.

  • josh||

    "but have we considered just losing?"

    I would've thought that's what we were doing, but then I'm a sucker for making sense.

  • joebaldheadedgranny||

    Losing is always an option, but then we would just have to engage the military somewhere else. Assuming the actual long term strategy is perpetual war, what is the best way to do that, the price being measured in lives and cost? Running this from Afghanistan is easier, safer, and less expensive than any other option. Just trying to read between the lines here.

  • Rich||

    he planned to present lawmakers with a strategy for the United States' longest-running war by mid-July.

    "We're going to keep sending more and more troops there and stay forever."
    (aide whispers in ear)
    "Oh, and we're going to make sure the Chinese get all the valuable minerals."

  • Hank Phillips||

    Does anyone notice that Afghanistan was a threat to opium prices back in the 1830s? Kipling's "The Game" was about nothing else but that! Britain pulled capital out of the US to force repeal China's prohibition of dope from the British raj. Vietnam (née Cochin-China) was France's opium regie until the temptation for defeat and surrender became irresistible. America in 1909 a critic and opponent of chemical enslavement of primitives, now occupies the enviable role of the murderous hand on the spigot of the stupefacient that made Europe the idiocracy it is today.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    MAGA turned into MAGA so gradually, I didn't even notice.

  • Agammamon||

    Oh lord. Even the Soviet Union only dicked around there for a decade. I think we've convincingly shown the world we can stomp on our dicks harder than the Russians can.

  • josh||

    "Even the Soviet Union"

    And if they had been more persistent, maybe they'd still be around.

  • Jerryskids||

    Since Trump knows more than the generals about this stuff, why is he turning the keys over to them on the operation? If defeating ISIS is just a matter of bombing the shit out of them and taking their oil, why won't that strategy work on al Qaeda the Taliban the Afghans whoever it is we're fighting in Afghanistan?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    'Member when some people here were tripping over themselves to convince themselves and others that Trump was a non-interventionist?

  • Trigger Warning||

    This really makes me want to puke. You can't win Afghanistan. There is no coherent win state. You could turn it into a smoking crater with nukes, and you'd still lose the war.

  • nicmart||

    Lew Rockwell should be pleased. Thanks to the Mises Institute gang for pimping Trump over the past year or so.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Are those guys still pretending to be libertarians?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Isn't he the German-speaking guy with Charlie Chaplin mustache? The one whose worshippers all think Indonesia has the model genocidal dictatorship we all ought to emulate?

  • mtrueman||

    "But there really isn't any strategy."

    Sure there's a strategy: Escalate! It will ensure that a powerful nation like USA beats a weak enemy like Afghanistan given enough time. Just keep ratcheting up the level of violence and mayhem, if you've the stomach for it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Has Brian gone mad? Bernies Dems and God's Own Prohibitionists just donated two martyrs to the thunderstorm of chaff distracting from America's continuing takeover of Mohammed's own opium garden. So now this irresponsible journalism pokes holes in the entire smokescreen. Here we are in the middle of the most profitable opiate addiction epidemic since 1923 or the importation of coffins from 'Nam. These things are engineered by cutting off access to competing products with underfunded lobbies. A lot of political investment and military coercion goes into the effort. No way is Brian going to rain on that parade and ruin the fun for its organizers.

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