More troops to Afghanistan cannot get America out of dilemma

China Military Online
Zhang Tao

BEIJING, Sept. 15 (ChinaMil) -- America's global anti-terrorist war is far from ending 16 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy in Afghanistan and said he won't withdraw troops from there. Later the American Defense Secretary James Mattis signed the order to assign more troops there.

American officials said that the Pentagon will send another 3,500 troops to Afghanistan, driving the total number of American troops there to about 14,500.

America's anti-terrorist war barely effective

We can analyze America's Afghanistan strategy in the past 16 years through its decision to increase or withdraw troops.

One month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) waged the Afghan War in the name of fighting terrorism, during which there were more than 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan at one time.

At the end of 2014, the Obama administration announced to withdraw most of the troops and end the military operations in Afghanistan, and the troops remaining there will mainly carry out tasks such as military consulting, training, technical support and so on.

The operations will be gradually transferred to the Afghan security troops. But the security situation in Afghanistan kept worsening afterwards.

In 2016, the Afghan security troops were reduced by nearly 30% compared with 2015, and in the first half of 2017, conflicts in the country killed more than 1,600 civilians and injured over 3,500 people, the most severe casualties in a decade.

The US Defense Ministry released a report at the end of 2016, saying that the Afghan security troops can no longer "stand on its own" and need "continuous support from the US and troops from other countries".

Some defense official even said that the Afghan security troops would be defeated by Taliban within three days once the American troops were withdrawn.

After Donald Trump came into power, the government release a new Afghanistan strategy for quite a while because of the divergence in his security team.

In the end, he decided to send more troops there. However, instead of changing the security situation in Afghanistan, this decision may drag the American troops deeper into the mire.

Hard for the US to give up Afghanistan

The US has invested a great deal of energy and capital in Afghanistan in the past 16 years. Looking at such an expensive and seemingly endless war, President Trump admitted that his "original instinct was to pull out" from Afghanistan.

Then what made the US government to continue sending troops there?

First of all, the US wants to maintain its image and influence there through a decent withdrawal. A hurried withdrawal of troops while the situation in Afghanistan is still unstable indicates America's failure, but if it can get out with decency and dignity, it can demonstrate its strength and prove its ability to reform a so-called "failed country".

Second, the US is worried that a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan may lead to the overflow of terrorism. Trump is worried that once the American troops are withdrawn, not only Taliban will come back, but the extremist organization IS and Al-Qaeda may also take this opportunity to expand and threaten the homeland security in the US.

Third, the US wants to preserve its geopolitical security in Central Asia. Afghanistan is an important gateway to Central Asia, and Trump has repeatedly stressed the anti-terrorist efforts in that region after he took office. Meanwhile, America's reinforced military presence in Afghanistan can also counter the influence of China and Russia in that region.

More troops cannot get America out of dilemma

There is no doubt that the increase of troops by the Trump government may curb the spread of extremist organizations, but it is useless for pushing the peace process in Afghanistan.

Since the Afghan War broke out, both Bush junior and Obama increased troops to Afghanistan, but they failed to realize lasting peace there.

On the contrary, every time the US sent more troops since 2003, it led to more vehement retaliation and more serious civilian casualties.

The dispatch of more American troops to Afghanistan this time is actually a continuation of America's persistent strategic thinking of "Violence must be met by violence", but such an approach may cause Afghanistan to once again miss an opportunity for peaceful development and plunge it into the vortex of armed conflicts.

Facts have proved over and over that the American-style anti-terrorist approach featuring "Violence must be met by violence" and "unilateralism" has brought disaster to the world.

From Afghanistan to Iraq, from Libya to Syria, the American troops have left ruins everywhere and made countless people homeless, and western countries, including the US itself, have been victimized as well.

People cannot help but ask whether the US today, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks, is more safe?

16 years have passed. The World Trade Tower has been rebuilt and the war-inflicted damages may be alleviated, but the lives of thousands of American soldiers and trillions of US dollars are gone forever. Yet the global anti-terrorist war waged by the US seems far from ending.

The author is Mu Xiaoming from the National Defense University (NDU) of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA)


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