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Afghanistan: Trump was right the first time

I've just finished listening to Trump's speech on Afghanistan.While generally I have been hostile to Trump's policies, this is one time when I think he was right the first time - when, during the campaign, he pledged to get out of Afghanistan.

In tonight's speech he took ownership of the Afghan War - the longest in US history, and one of the most tragically pointless. He pledged to take the bonds off the military - to let the war be fought
without limits. What that means, when translated, is that civilian casualties will increase (as has
already happened) as the military feels fewer restraints. And what that also means is that one of the things  which produces terrorists - the killing of civilians - is back in play.

He pledged not to engage in nation-building, which is commendable, but which also raises the question of what we are doing there in the first place.The military reality is that the Taliban are winning this war. They are winning because the central government in Kabul is corrupt, because the Americans are hated by much of the population, and, most of all, for better or worse, the Taliban are more highly motivated.

I am not a supporter of the Taliban. If we contrast this with the other war the US lost, Vietnam, the Communist forces in Vietnam brought education with them, medical care, and women's rights. No, they didn't bring the free elections of which the US sometimes boasts too loosely (with the continuing efforts to restrict voting), but they were not corrupt. There was much which Ho Chi Minh represented that Americans would have agreed with. Not so with the Taliban, which repress women,enforce dress codes much of the population resents,place limits on the music that can be played. But they are true believers in their form of Islam, they are not corrupt, and they have been steadily winning.

There is every indication - it was not quite buried in Trump's speech - that the US would welcome a chance to negotiate a truce with the Taliban, which can hardly leave the government in Kabul feeling secure. Those negotiations are overdue. Let them start tomorrow.

What was equally disturbing was Trump's approach to Pakistan and India. Yes, Pakistan is informally allied with the Taliban. But the United States depends on Pakistan for the routes through which supplies reach our forces in Afghanistan. Trump' rebuke of Pakistan almost implied they were not quite civilized. Far more serious, he went out of his way to praise India, Pakistan's mortal enemy, thus further complicating everything about the US role in Afghanistan. It is no longer just the Taliban the US is fighting, but now we will be embroiled in the India/Pakistan conflict.

Not noticed by the public - because it is an aspect of the Trump Administration which seems to have passed without comment - all the tools the US needs to bring diplomacy to bear are lacking - the State Department is barely staffed. The experts which might help provide Trump with information on that area have been dismissed, their departments closed.

Trump has called on US allies to increase their spending (and their troops levels) in the Afghan war, and done so just at the point where the US is isolated on the world stage.

So the killing will continue. Taliban forces will die, and innocent children. American military will die. Too many will return home with grievous wounds. The Taliban will extend its reach until, as happened in Vietnam, the US loses the military struggle altogether.

The Afghan War must end. Trump was right the first time. The US must withdraw. The human
and material resources spent in Afghanistan are wasted. The innocent will be killed along with the guilty. The war must end. Now, not a year from now.

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