After a summer of many political happenings, it is refreshing to be back in Greencastle writing DePauwlitics again. But unfortunately, while the summer may have been robust, the recent rollout of American strategy for Afghanistan by President Donald Trump was not.
In a war that has raged for sixteen years, the President released his administration’s updated strategic vision to resolving the conflict. The President reiterated his commitment to the defeat of our enemies seven times in the speech and our imminent victory four times. He did not, however, mention details about how many troops would be deployed or the timeline of deployment.
The speech was clearly prepared by communications staff more than it was by policy staff. But with a president at a 57 percent disapproval rating, it was in their best interest he kept to the script. But the script is not in the best interest of those entangled in the conflict: the Afghan people and stationed American troops.
In the past 16 years, American troops have been stationed in the country because of a coalition with the official Afghan government. This coalition aims to stop the advancement of the Taliban and encourage peace talks between the government and the insurgent group.
But the Taliban continue to take cities and kill government officials. A former American general estimates they control 60 percent of territory in the country, while more conservative estimates suggest 35 percent. The Taliban are not coming to peace talks any time soon. In the meantime, other terrorist organizations are forming without ample attention.
The Afghani people experience the consequences. The country is void of stable economic and educational systems, and has seen an increase of government infighting after a 2014 presidential election. Many fear that even if the Taliban were eradicated, there would not be a stable government to retain control in their absence.
So while the Commander in Chief’s speech was strategically vague at best, he made two things clear: America will keep its military presence and there will be more violence toward terrorist organizations. In contrast to the Bush and Obama administrations, the Trump administration seemingly looks to step away from diplomatic talks of peace and instead continue fighting to an undisclosed end.
The “defeat of enemies” and “victory” talking points sought to differentiate this administration from the previous two. But Afghan officials and Taliban insurgents know that the conflict will be a lot of what they are used to in everyone else’s “forgotten war”.