By Tom Luongo
I’ve been saying for weeks now that with the Syrian war is in its final stages, Afghanistan would become the next geopolitical football. On Monday night, President Trump outlined in sparse detail what his plans for the war in Afghanistan would look like.
From a purely anti-interventionist perspective, the speech was awful. It made excuses for past administrations’ failures while admitting U.S. involvement there has been nothing short of a disaster.
Good on Trump for acknowledging his changing perspective, for owning it. He could have shied away from it. He didn’t. And with that he reiterated his pledges made on inauguration about no more nation building and that the U.S.’s commitment isn’t open-ended.
I believe Trump when he says that pulling out of Afghanistan now, having broken the country like we did Iraq, would be terrible. This also, is something that harkens back to candidate Trump. He didn’t say anything new. He did, however, frame the context differently.
If staying is terrible, leaving is more terrible. These are the poison pills left him by the neocons and President Obama.
Now, all of that said, Trump did what I’ve been expecting him to do…. Not hope he’d do. With the knowledge that Tillerson’s State Dept. has been in contact with leaders in the Taliban Trump emphasized our strategic goal in Afghanistan is the elimination of ISIS.
And if that is the case, then it provides us with a path to achieving a specific goal in a reasonable time frame.
Remember, U.S. foreign policy is notorious for blowing things up, declaring victory and leaving. And this, in a sense, is what I think Trump outlined in his speech on Monday. He acknowledged that it isn’t our job to remake countries in our image, promote democracy or anything like that.
And if our military is used, like the Russians are using theirs in Syria – to rid the country of foreign invaders – then a strategic victory is possible.
However, if it turns into another chapter in this bloody quagmire in the Graveyard of Empires, then Trump will have sealed his fate as a one-term president.
A mission focused on rooting out ISIS and various terror groups and bringing the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan together on regional stability could be successful. Especially if that mission is undertaken in consultation with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and India who have been laying the groundwork for this since December.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came out the next day with a statement to that effect. And it was the best news I’ve heard since Trump finished speaking last night. Discussions with Russia and China on their roles in the peace process for Afghanistan have begun.
If you notice there have been zero incidents between U.S. and Russian/Syrian forces since Trump and Putin met in July. That is not a coincidence. It is a model for coordinating future anti-terrorist operations.
Why neocons like Lindsay Graham are happy about this now makes no sense. Maybe Graham thinks they’ve got Trump by the short and curlies. I, however, don’t think that’s the case.
Trump made sure he honored the military effusively in his remarks. The situation domestically is becoming very tense. I feel very strongly that a coup is underway that could lead to civil war in a myriad of ways.
Trump having the military at his back strengthens his position. As Commander-in-Chief, giving them clear mission parameters is the surest path to gaining their trust.
Generals don’t want to fight political wars abroad or at home. And that may have been the message everyone should have taken away from Trump’s speech.