Almost 16 years have passed since the US invaded Afghanistan. The threat coming from the Taliban has not subsided. The goal was to deny al-Qaida a base for its operations in Afghanistan. Today, Al Qaeda is operating in other places but the Taliban’s presence is strong and even increasing. Donald Trump has failed to keep his word and extricate America from a bloody conflict in the faraway country.
The situation is a real mess but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan, it remains to be on a war footing. The president has chosen to stick it out, with the never ending war to continue. August 21, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief put forward a long-awaited Afghanistan strategy.
Donald Trump recommitted the United States to the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, pledging to end a strategy of «nation-building» in favor of concentrating on the terrorist threat. The president provided few specifics, saying that conditions on the ground would determine future decisions and consequent actions. There will be no timetables or telegraphing of plans or tactics.
Trump hinted that he’d embraced the Pentagon’s proposal to boost troop numbers by nearly 4,000, augmenting the roughly 8,400 Americans there now. Earlier this year, the president entrusted Defense Secretary James Mattis and the military leaders with the decision about how many troops would be needed. No additional sums of money are sought from Congress, with the financial year concluding at the end of September.
«We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will,» the president said in comments. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already expressed his support for the new strategy.
Donald Trump is resolved to "confront Pakistan" over its connivance at the terrorist groups. He wants to intensify cooperation with India. Trump conceded that any solution that brings peace to Afghanistan may well involve the Taliban’s participation.
He also mentioned the intention to «participate in economic development in order to defray the cost of this war to us.» He obviously meant contracts to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. It shows that the idea of bringing in private military companies (PMCs) is still very much alive as no one stands in the way of US corporations willing to protect their economic interests in that country.
The increase of presence will not change the tide of war. There were times the US had more than 100,000 troops but nothing changed. The invasion of Iraq distracted the forces to embolden the Taliban. Today, the US in not able to concentrate solely on the Afghanistan, with the missions to be carried out in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Philippines, many countries of Africa and other places. The trouble is – the US military is obviously overstretched. Under the circumstances, a complete military victory in Afghanistan is hardly possible.
There may be other reasons to determine the administration’s resolve to stay, which were not mentioned in his speech of the Afghanistan strategy. The US-controlled air bases in Afghanistan have strategic importance. The air strips can be used as stop overs for strategic bombers and forces on the way to other countries or regions. The bases are located near the borders of Russia and China. The elements of military infrastructure also provide access to South Asia. It all makes the strategic springboard in Afghanistan a valuable military asset.
With all the turgid words Donald Trump said about the final victory he believes in, the administration realizes that the military effort is not enough. The only thing that can be done is pushing the Taliban to the mountains in an effort to cut them off from supplies. US proxies have tried this tactics in Latin America. But the war of attrition can go on for many years. The Colombian FARC is a good example. There is no military success in sight and the fact that State Secretary Rex Tillerson expressed readiness to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions confirms this fact.
There is something else to be added to the picture. In his remarks on August 22, State Secretary Rex Tillerson emphasized the role Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf could play in the general framework of international peace effort added to the Afghan Government – the Taliban dialogue. It reflects the realization of the fact that only a multilateral international effort can be effective in finding a solution of the problem.
The SCO led by Russia and China has already established a database of terrorist groups while, under the umbrella of Russia, all Central Asian countries have agreed to formulate a single list of terrorist groups on the platform of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which counts as a sister organization of SCO. Both organizations are working to prevent the filtration of terrorists from Syria and Afghanistan to Xinjiang, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and other regional countries. The Collective Treaty Organization, including Afghanistan, which has observer status of the alliance, has proposed cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan under the flagship of Russia. So far, the initiative been rejected.
The 16-year experience that only a truly international effort can end the war. Afghanistan is a potential field of cooperation between the US and other pertinent actors, such as Russia, as well as NATO and the SCO/CSTO. No US «go it alone» strategy will lead to any positive results. A coordinated international effort will.