Trump’s strategy on Afghanistan to do more harm than good

By M. Nadeem Alizai Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/27 20:53:39

US politics stand on two fundamental pillars - wars and sanctions. These are embodied in US politics in such a way that presidential candidates don't have a chance of winning elections if they do not touch upon these in speeches and statements. Candidates may adopt contrasting opinions and manifestos to convince voters to vote for them, but at the end of the day, once they set foot in office nothing ever really changes.

From Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, US presidents have promised the American people that they would walk a different political path than their predecessor. However, they each have ended up taking the same path. As a result, this pursuit of so-called US interests in underdeveloped countries has led to chaos and violence.

Prior to unveiling his strategy on Afghanistan, it was hoped that US President Donald Trump would first consult with major international players such as Russia and China.

However, the slogan of "a better and safer world" proved to be nothing but a fragile water bubble after Trump unveiled his Afghan strategy on Tuesday.

In his speech, he did not touch on troop levels in Afghanistan, thereby keeping the door open for a long-term US military presence. Additionally, according to Trump, the new strategy is objective-based rather than time-based, which means more forces from NATO member countries will be dragged to Afghanistan in order to fight a war that has already exhausted them.

This strategy will end up doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries.

One flaw in this strategy is that it gives more authority to the US troops on the ground. It will further damage the trust between Americans and Afghans, as well as the trust between the latter and their government.

The most important factor which the Trump administration has ignored is Afghans' code of life - respect for respect and an eye for eye. Afghans hate to see foreign boots kicking down their doors. They want their own security forces searching their homes as they share the same code.

As such, they will not remain silent when they are dragged out of their homes and insulted by foreigners. Foreign troops searching the belongings of Afghans is considered to be against the code of honor (Pashtunwali).

So by having them do so, this will only help increase public support for militants. Look closely and you will see that recent history is full of precedents. US military generals should learn from the green-on-blue attacks that were mainly triggered by the US' disrespect for the culture and religion of Afghans. 

Second, as feared, the new strategy is conditions-based. To put it simply, a situation will be created that will best suit Washington's needs. The leadership in Kabul will have no control over what occurs in the country and the Afghan government will be forced to do exactly as it is told by the Trump administration.

Third, this is sure to setback relations between Pakistan and the US. As hinted by Trump, Islamabad will face tough economic and military sanctions, as other NATO countries follow the US and put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to "do more." The US will also carry out targeted attacks in Pakistan. In some cases, Islamabad will see US boots on the ground in remote parts of the country.

If this happens, both Pakistani military and civilian establishments will come under public pressure. Extremists will have a golden opportunity to cash on in anti-US sentiment.

The new Afghan strategy has nothing new to offer Afghans except an increase in US troops and a resulting increase in the number of attacks. To what extent these attacks, unchecked authority, and changes in stance toward Pakistan will prove productive, only time can tell. However, the aftereffects are sure to last for decades in a war-devastated country and its neighboring states.

The author is a Kabul-based journalist.nadeemalizai@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @nadeemalizai



Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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