As the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks nears, it’s beginning to look like the conflict that sprang from that tragedy, the war in Afghanistan, will go on indefinitely.
President Donald Trump hinted at this Thursday when revealing his plans for troop levels in that country.
Speaking to Fox News radio, Trump explained his administration is busy working on a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Currently, roughly 14,000 military members are there.
Trump is working on dropping that number to 8,600.
Even at that low level, our country’s future in Afghanistan remains murky.
“You have to keep a presence,” the president said. “We’re going to keep a presence there. We’re reducing that presence very substantially and we’re going to always have a presence.” (Emphasis ours)
“We’re not fighting a war over there,” Trump later added. “We’re just policemen.”
He said the U.S. could win the war quickly, but he didn’t want a body count in the millions.
When the war in Afghanistan first began, it saw massive support from U.S. citizens still reeling from unprecedented terrorist attacks. Victories in the opening months of the war saw terror training camps obliterated and the Taliban thrown from power.
Then everything slowed down.
Foreign jihadis inundated Afghanistan. Engagements with U.S. troops gave the surviving extremists valuable combat experience, which was then used to sow terror in other countries.
As the years dragged on, America became involved in more military conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa as part of the expanded war on terror.
Al-Qaida was scattered to the wind and gained footholds all across the Muslim world. After years of hunting, the U.S. finally found Osama bin Laden, the group’s leader, holed up in Pakistan. However, his death did little to weaken the group.
In Iraq, dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled. He eventually would be captured and executed. After the U.S. troop withdrawal from that country in late 2011, a weak Iraqi government failed to stop the rise of the Islamic State group. These jihadis soon captured old U.S. equipment stores given to the Iraqis, turning them into instruments of terror.
The Trump administration, now in peace talks with the Taliban, is trying to avoid a similar fate for Afghanistan.
According to Reuters, the Taliban says it’s close to an agreement with the U.S. government.
The agreement, still in the works, would see American troops leave the country in large numbers. As for their part in the deal, the Taliban are pledging to not let the country turn into a hotbed for radical Islamist groups.
The United States isn’t the first country to suffer in the “graveyard of empires.” Russia and Great Britain also met similar hardships fighting for control of the desolate landscape of Afghanistan.
After years of struggle, it looks like there’s no clear path to victory in that country.
The only thing we can do is avoid a crushing forever war that promises to sap our country of morale as well as men and women.
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