A quagmire is defined as a complex or unpleasant position that is difficult to escape. President Trump's recently announced war plans in Afghanistan maintain that quagmire. They come at a time when US Empire is failing and its leadership in the world is weakening. The US will learn what other empires have learned, "Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires."
During the presidential campaign, some became convinced that Trump would not be an interventionist president. His tweets about Afghanistan were one of the reasons. In January of 2013, he tweeted, "Let's get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA." Now, we see a president who carries on the interventionist tradition of US Empire.
While Afghanistan has been a never-ending active war since 9-11, making the 16-year war the longest in US history, the truth is the United States became directly involved with Afghanistan some 38 years ago, on July 3, 1979. As William Rivers Pitts writes "On that day, at the behest of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive in an operation meant to destabilize the Soviet-controlled government of Afghanistan." In fact when the US dropped the MOAB bomb, Trump was bombing tunnels built with the assistance of the CIA in the 1980"s for the mujaheddin and Bin Laden.
Trump's Afghan policy is inaccurately described as a new approach but has only one element that is new -- secrecy, as Trump will not tell us how many soldiers he will send to this war. His so-called new strategy is really a continuation of the permanent war quagmire in Afghanistan, which may be an intentional never ending war for the empire's geopolitical goals. Ralph Nader reviews 16 years of headlines about Afghanistan, calling it a "cruel boomeranging quagmire of human violence and misery" with no end in sight."
Another Afghan Review Leads To Same Conclusion: More War
During his campaign for president, Trump called for the US to pull out of Afghanistan. Early in his administration, President Trump announced a review of the Afghanistan war. This week when he announced escalation of the war, Trump noted this was his instinct. Unfortunately, the president did not trust his previous instincts and missed an opportunity to end the war.
We have seen how President Trump refuses to admit mistakes, so it is highly unlikely he will change course from this mistaken path. His rationale is so many US soldiers have given their lives that we must stay until the United States wins. This is the quandary -- the US must continue the war until we win because soldiers have died, but continuing the war means more will die and the US must stay committed to war because more have died.
After we read President Trump's Afghanistan war speech, we went back and re-read President Obama's Afghanistan war speech given in March 2009. It is remarkable how similar the two speeches are. When Russian president Putin was interviewed by filmmaker Oliver Stone as well as when he was interviewed by Megyn Kelly, he made a point proven by US policy in Afghanistan, "Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change."
Both presidents conducted a lengthy review early in their administration and both talked with generals and diplomats who convinced them to escalate rather than end the war. Both presidents put forward what they claimed was a new strategy but in reality, was just doing the same thing over again: more troops, building up Afghanistan's military by working closely with them, using economic and diplomatic power and putting pressure on Pakistan not to be a safe haven for the Taliban and those fighting against the United States.
To ensure a quagmire both presidents said that decisions would not be based on a timeline but on conditions on the ground. Both promised victory, without clearly defining what it would mean; both raised fears of the Taliban and other anti-US militants using Afghanistan to attack the United States again. Trump had the advantage of knowing that President Obama's approach had failed despite repeated bombings in Pakistan and working with Afghan troops, but that didn't alter his course.
Afghanistan Victims of a February, 2012 US air strike that killed eight children in Kapisa, Afghanistan.
Failure To Learn Lessons Ensures Repeating Them
According to Mike Ludwig, since President Obama approved a troop surge in 2009, the war in Afghanistan has claimed at least 26,512 civilian lives and injured nearly 48,931 more. In July, the United Nations reported that at least 5,243 civilians have been killed or injured in 2017 alone, including higher numbers of woman and children than previous in years. Trump seems less concerned than previous presidents with killings of civilians.
Trump noted that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region was now the densest part of the world when it comes to anti-US militants, saying there were 20 terrorist groups in the area. President Obama added tens of thousands of troops to the Afghanistan war, dropped massive numbers of bombs and the result was more terrorism. The US was killing terrorists but the impact was creating more anti-American militants. Trump failed to connect these dots and understand that more US attacks create more hatred against the United States.