It’s now more than 17 years later, years in which American commanding generals in Afghanistan repeatedly hailed the U.S. military’s “progress” there and regularly applauded the way we had finally “turned a corner” in the Afghan War — only to find more Taliban fighters armed with RPGs around that very corner.
Finally, in the 18th year of the war, an American general — to be specific, Joseph Dunford, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — has come to a somewhat different conclusion. This, mind you, at a moment when the Taliban has taken control of more territory than at any time since they were forced from power by the U.S. invasion of 2001. His assessment also comes in the face of the worst casualties (“unsustainable”) for the American-backed Afghan security forces in memory (more than 28,000 deaths since 2015, according to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani). In response, Dunford offered the shocking news that — get a grip on yourself here — the Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say…” (Adapted from Tom Dispatch, 28 Nov 2018)
Hmm… give America’s top general for finally offering up the bad news, even if a few years late. In the twenty-first-century annals of the U.S. military, this passes for realism of the first order. Trumps reaction is to immediately remove half the American soldiers in Afghanistan, without consultation with anyone. This leaves the other half in acute danger, not to mention the Afghan army, whose members likely will be massacred. This reminds me of the scuttle out of Vietnam, the previous major American defeat. If you are going to withdraw, just withdraw, not half, but all the troops. This puts the remaining troops in jeopardy.