The other evening the President outlined a change in strategy for Afghanistan. Although certainly no fan of Donald Trump, I would say that in large part his general strategy makes sense. This new approach is far different then his campaign rhetoric and was, in large part, developed by his military advisors. In my view that is generally a good thing.
Basically, there are three basic fundamental changes that will occur.
- There is no time line for withdrawal as there was under past administrations. On the ground realities will set the time line.
- Troop strength will grow, but the size of the force is not stated and again, determined by force requirements.
- The pressure will be increased on Pakistan to halt being a haven for terrorists and militia groups. In addition India may be ask to play a larger roll. This is truly a chess game play as India is a mortal enemy of Pakistan and by including India in the mix, it may well force Pakistan to alter it’s current lack of effort toward ending insurgent groups using their country as a staging ground.
The one issue I disagree with is the President’s comments against nation building. Although he has a broader point in that we cannot, in many instances change a country’s core culture, extensive use of soft power is critical to winning any conflict.
His dramatic cuts of the State Department budget have really hurt any soft power initiative.
Helping the Afghan government change it’s culture of ingrained corruption is, critical to their survival. Other issues such as woman’s rights, poppy seed production removal and infrastructure development to improve the daily lives of Afghan citizens are also critical to winning the war. The bottom line is we must get the citizenry, urban and rural in Afghanistan on our side to win the conflict.
We must remember that conflict and war has been going on in that regional of the world for a very long time. For example the Soviets spend the entire decade of the 80s trying to prop up a friendly regime and finally gave up.
I do not know if we will be successful in our attempts. All I am sure of is that it will take all the resources we can muster with soft power playing a critical role for us to succeed even in a limited way.