US President Donald Trump has announced that the US will be prolonging its war in Afghanistan.
In a televised address, the President announced the country’s new Afghanistan and South Asia policies. Additionally, Trump called on India to take on a large role in Afghanistan.
The US war in Afghanistan began in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks. The goal was to root out Taliban and similar militant forces. Over the years the war has been criticized by lawmakers and the general public. The country has spent $850 billion on this war and about 2,400 members of the armed forces have been killed from 2011 to early 2017. Taliban has not been removed from the region and the country has become a hotbed for other militant groups like ISIS. Additionally, the current Afghan government, which is backed by America, has been unsuccessful in setting a mandate for governance.
Before becoming the President, Trump himself had been one of the most vocal critics of the war. He had often noted that it was a waste of time and money. However, he has not mentioned ending the war since assuming office in 2017.
Prior to his address, media reports had revealed that the administration was likely to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan.
Trump said that his strategy was not about “nation building” but rather about “killing terrorists.” He said that after counsel from military generals, he changed his views on the war.
He noted, “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America's interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.”
Trump also markedly criticized Pakistan and said that the US would no longer silent about the country being a safe haven for terror groups. He elaborated that Pakistan would have to comply as it has “much to lose.”
Additionally, he spoke about India’s role in bringing stability in Afghanistan. India already has spent millions in multiple development projects in the region. In 2016, India offered $1 billion in fresh aid to Afghanistan. However, Trump noted that he expected more. He said, “We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”
Our assessment is that Trump has positioned himself as tough on terrorism to justify continuing war. However, unless tangible results are produced, then public support will begin to wane for the continued expensive and dangerous operations. We feel that the US has too many problems back home to contemplate continuing this war. Trump has too few friends and far too many enemies that it might be lose-lose proposal. His biggest worry will be the response of the Russians.