A landlocked country of more than thirty-five million people, Afghanistan, is facing a never-ending war from last 17 years which has almost destroyed everything in the country from infrastructure to their society. The United States and allies invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 attack in which almost 3,000 people lost their lives on September 20, 2001, President Bush declared a new approach to foreign policy in response to 9/11: “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.” These remarks later matured into the policies known as the Bush Doctrine. When the White House released the National Security Strategy of the United States, they focused on three points.
The first was a preventive war, in which the United States would strike a perceived threat nation or terrorist group before they had a chance to attack the United States. The second point was unilateral action in which the United States would act alone if necessary, to defend itself either at home or abroad. The third point embraced spreading democracy and freedom around the world, focusing on concepts such as free markets, free trade, and individual liberty. After eight years of Bush’s War in Afghanistan, 30% militancy ratio was raised till 2008 and more than 8,000 troops were deployed in Afghanistan and the war costs more than $6 billion annually.
Obama was elected as the 44th President of United States of America he was supposed to be the peacemaker but in reality, he was the mirror image of George Washington Bush. He continued the plans and trajectory that has set or established by Bush Administration. He continued a war effort that has become increasingly unpopular with the public without the hope that the situation will ever improve.
On Dec 1, 2009, he articulated his administration’s so-called goals to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He increased the number of troops from 68,000 to 100,000. The NATO forces with the help of the Afghan army started an Operation Mosshtrack in Marjah with the goal to flush out Taliban from the city. The same operation in Kandahar with the same goal but in the end, both operations failed. In September 2014, Afghanistan signed a bilateral security accord with the U.S. and a similar text with NATO. According to the agreement, 12,500 foreign soldiers out of which 98,00 are Americans would remain in the country, after the end of NATO combat mission in late 2014 and from the beginning of 2015 American troops will be charged with two mission’s anti-terrorist operation against Al-Qaida and training Afghan forces.
In late 2015 the NATO combat mission ends and is replaced by assistance mission baptized Resolute Support. But in 2016 the security situation was regenerated then Obama again slowed down the pace of withdrawal, saying that 8,400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan in 2017.
In 2017 U.S. General elections situation was a little bit different because Donald Trump was the candidate of The Republican party which had a very different point of view on the Afghan war and specially Trump. He said in many speeches that the U.S should come out of Afghan war because it’s not their responsibility to build a nation over there. But the real and daunting question is does Trump has a different policy on Afghan war from his predecessors or not.
He said, “My original instinct was to pull out and, historically, I like following my instincts”. After decrying nation building during his presidential campaign and lambasting Afghanistan as a “complete waste,” the president is in the midst of sending thousands of more troops to the country in an effort to stabilize it. In that instant, Obama’s war had become Trump’s.
After his first speech Defense, secretary James Mattis received the go-head from the oval office to add a few thousand troops to the 11,000 uniformed American soldiers just like what Obama did. Now the United States has approximately 16,000 troops in Afghanistan engaged in two missions: 1) a bilateral counterterrorism mission in cooperation with Afghan forces; and 2) participation in RSM. U.S. troops in Afghanistan serve alongside almost 8,000 troops from NATO allies and partners. U.S. forces continue to disrupt and degrade ISIS-K and al-Qaeda activities in Afghanistan, through partnered operations with Afghan forces, as well as unilateral operation according to the U.S State department.
Being a neighbor to Afghanistan Pakistan is a key player in the Afghan war. Pakistan was United States’ key partner in the war against terrorism. Obama increased the military assistance aid thrice to Pakistan in his tenure. At the end of the Obama era, the relationship between U.S. and Pakistan turned upside down because Obama thought because of Pakistan they have not been able to leave Afghanistan till 2016.
A year ago Trump promised a tougher line against Pakistan during his policy speech. The primary action Trump has taken in his effort to get tougher on Pakistan was to cut most US security assistance to Pakistan earlier this year. This being said, the levels of security assistance were going down anyway since the Obama administration”. So far there has not been much evidence that the US is really going to get tough on Pakistan, which would be involving sanctioning country matters even designate it as a state sponsoring terrorism. The reason is simple: Afghanistan is a landlocked country surrounded by countries that are not well-disposed to the US such as Iran, and some former Soviet republics that remain aligned with Russia and China. That leaves only Pakistan as a reliable ally, which means that resupplying the 15,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan requires Pakistani roads and airspace. Every U.S. administration has to work with Pakistan for their own means and in return, Pakistan has lost more than 60,000 people in this war on terror.
Obama gave a timeline of withdrawal, unlike the Trump Administration. This is the main factor that separates Trump’s policy from Obama but overall there is no vision on how the war in Afghanistan will end. From 17 years long war, one thing is evident that this war will not end on the battlefield it has to be solved down on the table. Optimism about Afghanistan has given way to a bitter reality. There have been informal conversations involving the U.S. and the Taliban since the presidency of George W. Bush. During the Obama years, the U.S. held direct talks with the Taliban but there was no outcome of any talks. From July Trump administration is reportedly talking to the Taliban directly, but there are mere chances of any prolific outcome.
From Bush’s era to Trump Administration, Afghan policy has been same with little change, but the war did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. The people who lost their loved ones in 9/11 attack or in the Afghan war they have the same affliction. They did not make policy. They lived within it. But one thing is clear there will be no withdrawal. At least not anytime soon.