Will America Finally Solve Afghanistan?
It has been a long, tiring, drawn-out war now entering its 17th year—and the end is nowhere in sight. United States President Donald Trump confirmed as much in a speech given on August 21 announcing a “new strategy” for Afghanistan and a continuation of troop deployments to the country for the foreseeable future.
In his announcement, Mr. Trump emphatically pointed out that “we are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” He stated that he had now changed his mind from his pre-presidential position, firmly against the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. (From 2012: “Afghanistan is a total and complete disaster. What are we doing? … [L]et’s get with it. Get out of Afghanistan. We’ve wasted billions and billions of dollars, and more importantly, thousands and thousands of lives ….”)
Now, more troops are set to be deployed in the coming days or months in the attempt to curb the violence, terrorism and territorial gains of the Taliban and associated al Qaeda. No exact troop numbers have thus far been set, but the Pentagon is calling for 4,000 additional servicemen to join the 12,000 already in Afghanistan.
This renewed U.S. push into Afghanistan is an attempt to break the current stalemate. U.S. generals want to push through the deadlock and finally start gaining ground. But actually, that isn’t exactly true. Because over the past several months, instead of a “stalemate,” the Taliban has been gaining ground in Afghanistan. It now has consolidated more than 10 percent of the country and is currently contesting an entire third. The Afghan government, according to a watchdog report, now controls less than 60 percent of the country. Even the Islamic State is growing more active in the country.
Since the first American combat boot landed on the ground in 2001, following 9/11, the desire has been (in short) to exterminate dangerous anti-American terrorists from the nation and help establish an official democratic Afghan government with power over the entire country. No longer would men like Osama bin Laden be allowed to fester in the country. Except, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
American troops, along with a European coalition, soon found themselves embroiled in a war without clearly defined parameters. They were fighting a slippery enemy armed, in many cases, with American weapons. Often and repeatedly they found themselves being attacked by their own Afghani “allies”—the very people they were fighting alongside. (Example: In 2012, more than 30 attacks were carried out against coalition forces by Afghan “partners,” forcing U.S. troops to carry weapons at all times, even on base.) And with the sheer resiliency of the enemy, not even President Barack Obama’s 2011 push of over 100,000 U.S. troops was enough to crush the Taliban and eradicate al Qaeda.
President Obama did cry victory, however, after the Afghans finally held full democratic elections in 2009. As Trumpet managing editor Joel Hilliker wrote, though, the elections were only “full in the sense that there were multiple candidates—the obstacles and problems were too abundant to count.” He continued:
Before the election, the Taliban threatened violence against voters; they launched rocket attacks and a suicide bombing that killed seven; they pulled one candidate from his car and shot him—the latest of 13 confirmed political killings since last spring. The intimidation worked: Voter turnout was estimated at 20 to 30 percent …. On election day, 73 more attacks were carried out, killing 20 to 30 people. Several voters had their inked fingers chopped off.
Right now, the Afghan Elections Complaints Commission (ecc) is sorting through more than 2,600 allegations of fraud …. The ecc said last week it would throw out ballots from 83 polling stations.
Another body observing the election, the Independent Election Commission, is chaired by a man appointed by President Karzai. This commission was implicated in a voter registration fraud on a scale of millions of voters. And Karzai’s chief opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, released a video that he claimed showed an iec official stuffing boxes with votes for Karzai.
So much for a victory for democracy. And it doesn’t help matters that one of the candidates for the following election was the mentor of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and a known associate of bin Laden. The U.S. fights tooth-and-nail to set up a working democracy in another country, and these are the types of people coming out for election?
It can thus be said that U.S. troops have been fighting to establish a governmental system in Afghanistan that neither side really wants.
Adding to the tragedy and general quagmire that our men and women are facing is the fact that some of the American leadership has been incredibly inept. At the end of 2013, an advisory group of Obama’s Pentagon and State Department experts on the Afghanistan War were gathered for a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Two basic questions were asked of them. When asked the annual cost of the war in Afghanistan, the panel couldn’t even provide an estimate. The stunned examiner moved on to the next question: How many of our troops have been killed or wounded in the last year? Again, disgracefully, silence. Not even a ballpark figure could be given—and this from the people who advise the president on strategy that puts military men and women in danger. Add to the mix President Obama’s broadcasting of tactical timetables—the precise withdrawal time frame for U.S. forces—and you have given away any strategic advantage, not that there was one to begin with, anyway. What was the Taliban going to do with that kind of information? Of course, go underground until U.S. forces have cleared out. Then the playground’s all theirs.
Of course, that full withdrawal never entirely happened. It did for the Brits—but America still has troops in Afghanistan. And as a large majority of those troops departed at the end of 2014, what was being left behind? For the Brits: $30 billion and 453 killed in action. For the Americans: $760 billion and 2,350 killed in action. And to what gain or achievement? It’s hard to speculate. No wonder Trump was originally so critical of the campaign. Still, though, as of Monday’s speech, the war is to continue. Not so much the “nation building.” Instead, “killing terrorists.” If the Pentagon gets its way, another 4,000 U.S. troops will be heading in.
But this is not a war that can be won by pouring in 4,000 more troops. Part of the reason is because this isn’t just about Afghanistan and the Taliban. This is about Pakistan.
“U.S. commanders didn’t realize just how crucial external support from Pakistan was in allowing an unpopular Taliban insurgency to survive,” wrote Washington Post’s David Ignatius after interviewing U.S. Gen. John Nicholson. Pakistan was key in the very formation of the Taliban and was a safe haven for Osama bin Laden along with other terrorist cells. Trump called out Pakistan in his Monday address, accusing it of harboring safe havens for terrorists and calling on it to demonstrate a commitment for peace. It probably didn’t convince Pakistan, however, especially considering that Trump also called for a greater involvement in the war from India, Pakistan’s bitter rival.
Still, the wider Afghan “theater” doesn’t stop with Pakistan. China has recently come out in support of Pakistan, after it received condemnation from Trump. Russia will undoubtedly take sides with China—and strong evidence suggests that Russia is also believed to be supplying weapons and money to the Taliban (though its government officially denies this). In fact, Russian military aid to the Taliban is believed to have accelerated over the last two years. Russia and China certainly have a vested interest in countering U.S. foreign policy and action abroad. Providing weapons to the Taliban is a brazen act of violence against U.S. soldiers. And still, it doesn’t stop there. Iran also has been arming and training members of the Taliban—remember, the country we hashed out the nuclear deal with? As an aside—why wasn’t this brought up in the negotiations?
Properly dealing with the Taliban does not mean merely combating a group of rogue mountain men—as hardy and stubborn as they indeed are. Sorting out the problem means dealing with Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China. This, of course, is not something the U.S. is prepared to do.
Putting aside foreign intervention: When it comes to the actual enemy on the ground, the Taliban has proved to be some real tough nails. The mighty U.S., purportedly the most powerful nation ever on Earth, is still unable to show any real fruits after a 16-year war—against what? Against a wild group of mountain tribes, draped in robes, wielding stolen, illegal and obsolete weapons. How is this possible? How are these people still around and, in many cases, thriving?
British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli summed up the answer to this question 150 years ago: “Nothing can withstand the power of the human will if it is willing to stake its very existence to the extent of its purpose.” The Taliban is certainly an example of that, with its sheer, fanatical willpower. The Viet Cong was an example of that. The Koreans were and are. Here, presently, in the harsh faraway environment of Afghanistan, the Americans are not.
That’s not to say American troops haven’t been incredibly brave or dedicated. Thousands have courageously given their lives in this fight. There are some real warriors out there who are sacrificing their lives in service to their country. But America’s “very existence” is not staked in this fight. There is no common resolve. Only endless division. Ineptitude. It has been a war that was never truly committed to—a limited war.
This idea of “limited” war really took off in Korea. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered it impossible to win the Korean War against Communist North Korea without engaging its powerful supporter, China. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese had attacked American forces in North Korea, driving them back to the South; as such, MacArthur requested permission to attack China, famously stating that “there is no substitute for victory.” President Harry Truman refused, in the interests of a “limited” war. MacArthur was eventually fired.
The same principle has played out in the wars since, and Afghanistan is no exception. There is no total and complete resolve to win the war. There is no thought to address the support of surrounding belligerent nations. Limited war is the cry of the day. And wars like these can never be won. Limited war and a lack of wholehearted will is a recipe for failure.
As we wrote at the beginning of the Afghanistan War in 2001:
The war in Afghanistan is sure to be long and hard-fought. … The critical factor in the military campaigns and in the peace process is national will. A lack of national will is what, for example, resulted in a lack of U.S. resolve in the Vietnam War. … For the United States, the support of the populace will be essential throughout this Central Asian ordeal. That is why the Taliban feels it can win. It is working to draw the U.S. into a situation from which extraction is difficult. The result would most likely be a weakening of national resolve, as happened in Vietnam.
This is precisely what has happened in Afghanistan. We have embroiled ourselves into perhaps the most difficult of all battlefronts to extract ourselves from.
In his Monday address, President Trump stated that “the American people are weary of war without victory.” He’s right. What has been going on? Where are our military successes?
Just after World War ii ended, our founder Herbert W. Armstrong boldly proclaimed that America had won its last war. On the heels of World War ii, that was a bold statement! But look at the track record.
Up to and including World War ii, America’s foreign interventions ended virtually entirely in victory. Since World War ii, however, the track record has been appalling. Korea was a disaster (technically, the war there never officially ended); we now have North Korean nukes ready to be fired at mainland America. The Bay of Pigs invasion resulted in catastrophe. Little Vietnam—where America’s second-longest war took place (10 years)—was a debacle, taking nearly as many U.S. lives as were spent in World War i. What about the defeat in Somalia, of all places? Then there is the quagmire that is Iraq (the most recent war there has been America’s third-longest at nine years). These conflicts have resulted in turning Iraq into a proxy nation of Iran’s and fertile ground for the Islamic State. There is the Libyan war, which only succeeded in killing a pro-Western dictator and replacing him with a vacuum of anti-Western militias (leading to the infamous open murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens). Then there’s the war in Syria—need anything more than “red line” be said? What about the ongoing efforts against the Islamic State? And still the longest U.S. war by a mile—Afghanistan—ticks over into its 17th year.
Something is different. Something has changed. The world’s “strongest power” has never had such long battles—and never kept losing so badly, so repeatedly. Mr. Armstrong truly was a prophet: The United States has won its last war.
And so the United States will never win the war in Afghanistan.
America does not have the sheer will or the pride in its power and strength. For a nation that flaunts “In God We Trust,” America has instead found itself heir to biblical curses. “I will even appoint over you terror … I will break the pride of your power … [a]nd your strength shall be spent in vain” (Leviticus 26:16, 19-20). This sums up America’s efforts in Afghanistan. Around $800 billion spent and 2,500 dead, with nothing to show. That’s strength spent in vain.
And frankly, it should be no surprise that these curses are falling upon us. Particularly considering the immorality and debauchery to which the U.S. has fallen over the last several decades. If these statistics here don’t make you feel sick, then I don’t know what will.
Believe it or not, Leviticus 26 does apply directly to the United States of America. Here is why—please request a copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, free of charge. So what can be done? Leviticus 26 is known as the “blessings and curses chapter.” The curses guaranteed for disobedience are directly preceded by the blessings for obedience—if only that instruction would be followed. It is there for the taking. Take a look at Anthony Chibarirwe’s article “Buried in Afghanistan” for further detail on the war in Afghanistan and why it is unwinnable. And be sure to check out Stephen Flurry’s article “The Blessings … and Cursings” to see not only where and why America has been cursed, but also how we have been blessed and how we can return to those blessings and victories.