Five things to know about US new Afghanistan strategy

Alwaght– Several months after taking the office, the US President Donald Trump in August last year unveiled the new American war strategy in Afghanistan, highlighting the need to increase the number of the troops in the war-ravaged country, emphasizing that the forces will remain there to an uncertain time.

Trump uncovered his new strategy during a televised address from an army base near Arlington military personnel cemetery in Washington’s outskirts, where a large number of the 2,400 American troops killed in the Afghanistan war are buried. The US strategy of Afghanistan war is not something new as before Trump his predecessor Barack Obama also announced a strategy for the over-decade-long campaign. So, the Trump’s war pathway is a repetition of Obama’s, with the aims focusing on the Taliban to return to the negotiating table and containing Iran and Russia, two countries of big regional influence. A series of points are of importance to bring in the spotlight:

1. Americans claim that their strategy is meant to prevent the collapse of the Afghan government. According to Trump’s view, Obama’s strategy could mean the disintegration of the administration in Kabul. In his Afghan war plan, the former US president announced embarking on efforts to strengthen the Afghanistan’s national army and so pave the way for the Americans to leave the Central Asian country. But the new president was opposed to that, arguing that once the American and the allied forces leave Afghanistan, the central government there will fall, which means the US will lose the war at the end of the road.

Now, Washington leaders insist that Trump’s strategy is a zero-based one, namely concentrating on fully cutting the casualties and on the other side maximizing the wins, a plan dubbed “rational actor model” in the international relations. The focal point of the strategy is to save the Afghan government from falling, the planners suggest. They claim that according to this roadmap, Afghanistan should cease to be the paradise of the terrorists. But do Americans really want to secure and stabilize Afghanistan with their new strategy? The expanding insecurity and volatility of the situation of the country by no means suggest that the Trump’s plan is going anywhere in fighting militants.

2. Afghanistan war has so far cost the US about $800 billion and over 2,000 of soldiers. The US pays $50 billion per year to keep its forces on the ground. This cash is separate from the direct financial support to the Afghan government. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the Americans do not aim at making Afghanistan a secure place of living. Rather, they plan to manipulate the conditions in the civil war-struck country. Manipulation of the situation in Afghanistan is done by sowing division between the militias and for example putting face to face the northern mujahedeen who fought the Soviet occupation of their country in the 1980s. Other arrangements include allowing terrorist groups such as ISIS to rise and consequently Taliban’s power to shrink.

On the other hand, a large part of US Afghanistan strategy is pursuable through interaction with neighboring Pakistan. Islamabad is urged to support the Washington cause in dealing with the terrorists and rebel groups. But so far, and especially recently, the Pakistani leaders have not complied with US strategy in Afghanistan completely.

3. Unlike Americans, the Pakistanis do not want to impair Afghanistan’s Taliban. This is the sticking point which showed itself in the form of a Washington-Islamabad row after the strategy was unveiled. Washington accuses Islamabad of backing and harboring terrorists. When the crisis in American-Pakistani relations in mid-2017 hit a climactic point, Trump accused Islamabad of circumventing Washington despite their alliance. He pressed Islamabad to review its pro-Taliban policies and stances. At the present time, Pakistan is in favor of Taliban power boost and liquidation of the ISIS, something on a collision course with the US pro-ISIS scheme in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s support for Taliban is not something weird and unexpected, and because of domestic resources weakness, it needs to create its own advantages in Afghanistan using the anti-Kabul militants. In fact, Pakistan takes financial advantage from Taliban’s existence. At least the Pakistan army cashes in on the Taliban’s being a trouble to the Americans.

But there are considerable differences between Taliban and ISIS. ISIS is non-native and will be more difficult for it to establish its own government, or caliphate, as it failed in Syria and Iraq. The takfiri ideology can hardly grow and flourish in Afghanistan. Over the past decades, only a small strings of this radical ideology found ground for growth in Nangarhar province in the east of the country, but failed to spread to other parts.

4. The US is adopting a model of strategy in Afghanistan which is similar to that adopted in Iraq. In Iraq, initially the state’s security structure was debilitated and when the regime of Saddam Hussein fell,  Americans took the control. The US strategy is also designed to enervate the security establishment. This is underway, as the Kabul’s security structure is apparently perplexed. Last week’s Kabul hotel terrorist attack was launched with a specially-designed plan. The attackers, the reports suggested, went directly to the individuals’ rooms with prior knowledge. This, many analysts argue, cannot happen without internal coordination and insider information.

Therefore, one of the steps of Americans in the realization of their strategy is to render inefficient the Afghan security system. This is necessary if they seek to dominate Afghanistan’s control. Indeed, the US does not mean to obliterate terrorism in Afghanistan; rather, wants to take a center-stage control of the country’s domestic affairs for a long time.

Another aim behind impairment of Afghanistan’s security is to pave the way for the security companies like Blackwater, now renamed to Academi, to step in. security erosion in Afghanistan will allow the American security companies to easily enter into contracts with various parties in Afghanistan. This is one of the objectives of the US president.

5. Afghanistan developments indicate that Afghan government’s goals and priorities are different from those of the US. For Afghanistan, three matters are of priority: Taliban, ISIS, and Pakistan. But it is a different story when it comes to the US as Washington’s objective behind presence in Central Asia is building a military balance, controlling its rivals China and Russia, curbing Iran emergence as a regional power, and securing the Israeli regime. In other words, the US leaders want to monopolize their presence in the region without allowing others to have a share.

Under Trump, the US put strains on Pakistan, but pressuring Islamabad is not Washington’s final aim; rather they are meant to enfeeble the power of the Pakistani independent decision-making to oblige it to walk in line with the US Afghanistan strategy and distance from its neighbor Iran. To put it differently, the US wants Pakistan on board its own regional order.

The same behavior is observable in Iraq as Washington is pressing Baghdad to separate ways from Tehran, though it is yet to be successful. Therefore, the purpose of pressure on Islamabad is to turn the Pakistanis into backers of the US long-term Afghanistan presence. Heavy military costs, setting up military bases in Bagram, and signing a security pact with Afghanistan government are signs of the US military personnel’s long-term stay in Afghanistan.

And finally, for various reasons, the US new strategy in Afghanistan is militaristic and anti-Pakistani and Taliban pressures are a kind of justification for the shortcomings and a failure to fight an honest war against terrorism.