A surge in Afghanistan… again

Zach Krivine, Contributing Writer

“America first”: two words with which President Donald Trump has characterized his campaign, his presidency, and his movement at large. A key element of Trump’s political philosophy is that on many occasions, the United States has engaged in too many military conflicts around the globe that have resulted in blunders. In 2013,  Trump 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.” On Aug. 22, however, the president’s foreign policy seemed to shift 180 degrees when he not only stated that the United States would no longer be withdrawing military forces from Afghanistan, but that he would also increase the deployment of troops from the about 8,400 currently stationed. Pentagon officials have said that the increase will amount to an approximate addition of 4,000 troops.

American interests in Afghanistan has multiple layers. For one, the presence of terrorist cells has frustrated U.S. defense officials for more than a decade and a half. In response to the Sept. 11 attacks, former President George W. Bush launched his “War on Terror.” In the Sept. 21 speech outlining this doctrine, Bush said, “The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda’s vision for the world.” When it was revealed that the Taliban had been giving shelter to Osama bin Laden, the U.S. military immediately conducted a series of military strikes in Afghanistan, with a small invasion made up of American and NATO forces. Bin Laden had fled Afghanistan by early 2002 and by 2003, al-Qaeda’s presence in and the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan had diminished significantly.

However, the new, democratically elected Afghan government headed by Hamid Karzai was not effective at checking the Taliban. The government was fraught with corruption and Karzai did not prove to be a dependable ally. By 2009, the Taliban had reclaimed much of the territory they had lost—so much so that former President Barack Obama was forced to send an additional 17,000 troops to the region. The U.S. military presence has followed such a pattern throughout much of this decade. For many generals, and even Afghan War vets, allowing the nation to fully slide into Taliban rule would undo much of the progress made in what can be considered the United States’s longest war.

However, the Taliban is not the only reason for continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is allegedly in possession of approximately 130-140 nuclear warheads. The history of U.S.-Pakistani relations is complicated, but if Americans are worried that nukes could potentially fall into the wrong hands in a volatile area of the world, they should sleep better knowing that the 101 Airborne Division isn’t too far away.

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