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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan

With all the ink spilled on the Russia election stuff, it has been easy to miss other things that have been happening.  One area that has been ignored is Afghanistan.  Now we are getting some attention there from people who seem only to want to use Afghanistan to bash Trump some more.

One such article is by professor Steven Walt who wrote in Foreign Policy magazine under the title:  "What's the Point of Donald Trump's Afghan Surge?"  Here's a guy who ought to know what he is talking about; after all, he's a professor of International Relations at Harvard.  If you assume that this is an honest assessment of Afghan policy, don't fool yourself.

Here's the key.  What is a "surge" with regard to troop levels?  During the Iraq war, president Bush ordered a surge and increase US troop levels in Iraq by close to 50,000 soldiers.  That major increase in fighting forces allowed the USA to win the war.  In Afghanistan, president Obama ordered a surge when he got into office.  He nearly tripled the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan by sending roughly another 70,000 thousand soldiers into the battle in that country.  Obama's surge cut into Taliban power, but Obama started withdrawing forces quite quickly after his initial buildup was over.  In fact, Obama withdrew all US forces from Iraq and took forces in Afghanistan down to roughly 5000.  Those moves brought nearly a quarter of a million American troops home.  After Obama cut the forces way back, ISIS appeared in Iraq, so Obama sent back about 4-5000 troops.  In Afghanistan, Obama stopped the scheduled withdrawal of the last troops and left roughly 5000 troops in that country.  The Americans in Afghanistan are helping train the Afghan army; they do not fight day to day in the field.  So a surge in Afghanistan must mean Trump is going back into that country in a big way.  It must be that Trump is sending 35,000 to 50,000 new troops to Afghanistan, right?  It's only logical, right?

The truth is that no final decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan has even been made.  Further, the number of troops under discussion is about 3,000 who would again be aiding in the training of Afghan forces.  That's hardly a surge.  Even if Trump sends all troops being considered, the USA would have like 8000 soldiers in Afghanistan with a big chunk of them just guarding the embassy and other American installations in Kabul.  Under Obama, we got up to over 120,000 troops.  That was a "surge"; this is an adjustment.

So why is a supposed foreign policy expert talking about the issue in such a misleading way?  The answer is not difficult to determine.  More people will probably read the headline only than will read the article.  Walt wants to convince people that Trump is sending major forces back into Afghanistan because he wants us out completely.  Misleading people into believing that a major force increase is imminent is probably the best way to get people upset.  It's really sad.

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