Monday, August 21, 2017

Trump and Obama: All Wrong on Afghanistan

There was nothing new under the eclipsed sun today or in President Trump's speech tonight on Afghanistan. What we heard was mostly incoherent war-like bromides from a man who said repeatedly for the last seven years, at least, that the war in Afghanistan is a "total disaster" that needs to end.

In 2013, Trump declared, "I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!"

He was right then. He's wrong now. Trump's allegedly bold new approach to the longest war in American history is simply another extension of a failed policy dictated by his Generals.

I daresay it sounds just like President Obama, if a tad more hawkish. The choices Trump made in his speech tonight are actually just about identical to what Hillary Clinton would have done had she been elected. She is in fact a more consistent hawk than Trump or Obama.

I was hoping Trump would keep his campaign promise tonight and follow his earlier instincts to end this quagmire once and for all. But I was hoping against hope: he's lied and/or flipped on literally every single political issue. Name one, and I'll show you a flip and/or a lie.

There was resolve in his speech tonight, and some frustration. But there wasn't much substance. He has no plan. His only genuine idea is to add 4,000 troops. And that came from the Generals not from him. There will no real change in outcomes.

It just won't work. No matter how you loosen the reigns of warfare, no matter what you do, none of this will work. Afghanistan is a train wreck.

Do I want the Taliban to flourish in Afghanistan? Of course not. Was I for the U.S. going into Afghanistan after 9/11? Of course! But this war needs to end.

The war against terror is indeed worldwide. It is not against one country, and for that reason we need to focus on the world, on ISIS, on terror at home, and not put all our eggs in one corner of the world that will never change no matter what we pursue.

Neither Trump's rhetoric tonight nor his new plan will change that.

Taking More Credit for an Obama Operation

Trump also made the preposterous claim today that Obama withdraw too hastily from Iraq, when in fact the decision to leave was settled by Bush before Obama was even in office.

Laughable, too, is the fact that Trump took credit tonight for the recent success in Mosul, which was an Obama operation that Trump condemned before he took credit for it.

The only really "new" ideas Trump proffered tonight was his empty threat to Pakistan and his characteristically stupid decision to incite India and Pakistan, two countries with nuclear bombs that already despise each other and don't need any excuse to increase the hostilities.

Trump is a nothing. He stands for nothing. He's an empty suit. The guy who said he "knows more than the generals" knows squat. His "plan" is, in style and substance, almost exactly like Obama's plan, which of course did not work, either.

The Obama bashers tend to forget that it was Obama who was ultimately responsible for the surge in Afghanistan of 100,000 U.S. troops. But he realized that this civil war, with all its players, is a quagmire and is un-winnable.

And that is the only message, the only lesson, the only mantra, that anyone should take away from this open-ended conflict:

Afghanistan is a U.S. military operation with no endpoint, and it's not making us any safer!

Obama wasn't willing to pull out, and Patraeus was subsequently inexplicably praised for his counter-insurgency plan that in fact was an absolute mess, as I reported for The Daily Beast in 2012.

Obama was a much better president, a much better leader, and a much better commander in chief than Trump, in every demonstrable way. But neither one knows what to do with Afghanistan.

It isn't an easy decision, to be sure. But Trump has no idea what he is doing. And whether or not we tell our enemies when we will withdraw is a moot point. Timelines are virtually meaningless in a war that has lasted almost 17 years.

It's time to get out of Afghanistan.


Back When Trump Was Semi-Sane

Trump believed this whole-heartedly. For years. Tonight, he should have listened to his former self when he actually, at times, made some sense.

Courtesy of CNN, here's a telling look back at what Trump has said about Afghanistan dating back seven years:

October 7, 2011
"When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first."

February 27, 2012
"It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests."

March 12, 2012
"Afghanistan is a total disaster. We don't know what we are doing. They are, in addition to everything else, robbing us blind."

August 21, 2012
"Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!"

January 14, 2013
"I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!"

March 1, 2013
"We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives. If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first."

May 8, 2013
"We continue to lose our nation's finest in Afghanistan almost daily. The Rules of Engagement are costing lives."

November 20, 2013
"Afghanistan leaders want the U.S. to keep 20,000 troops there for many more years, fully paid for by the U.S., but first they want apology."

December 1, 2014
"Now Obama is keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously."

October 6, 2015
"We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place. It's a mess, it's a mess and at this point we probably have to (leave US troops in Afghanistan) because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave."


  1. Couldn't agree more Jamie.
    From Alexander the Great onwards it's been called "The Graveyard of Empires".
    "For Gen. Victor Yermakov, a former Soviet commander in Afghanistan, the situation is more clear cut. Summed up by what he says are the words of Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty that ruled much of central Asia in the 1500s: 'Afghanistan has not been and never will be conquered, and will never surrender to anyone.' " *
    Call me cynical. But. I believe there are three pivotal reasons for sending more young people into "Forgotistan"

    Oil Pipe