Trump’s new strategy for the war in Afghanistan—deploying more troops, putting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, and reaching out to the Taliban—largely relies on tactics that failed under the previous two administrations. President Donald Trump outlined his strategy for ending the nearly 16-year conflict in Afghanistan in a nationally televised speech on Monday night, laying out a plan that relies on what The New York Times called “a mix of conventional military force and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.”
Professor Valentine Moghadam, director of the Middle East Studies program at Northeastern University, weighed in on the efficacy of Trump’s plan and the challenges of pulling out of America’s longest war. He doubted if it will work as currently envisioned. Afghanistan’s problems are a part of a broad regional crisis as well as its own specific quagmire going back to the late 1970s. Since the early 20th century, Afghanistan has tried several times to modernise, but each attempt has faltered in the face of an entrenched patriarchal and tribal resistance. In April 1978, a left-wing modernising government came to power in Afghanistan. At the time, he found it very promising.
A few years earlier, the U.S. had lost the war in Vietnam. The Cold War was still dominating world politics and Jimmy Carter was now the President of United States. Perhaps Carter might have left Afghanistan alone, but his national security adviser was the Polish-born and fiercely anti-communist Zbigniew Brzezinski. When a tribal-Islamist uprising began in the summer of 1978, Brzezinski urged support for the rebels, and the CIA began its destabilisation measures. As the situation deteriorated, the Afghan government appealed for military help from the Soviet Union and after much internal consultation, the Soviet authorities decided to send in a limited military contingent in December 1979, confident that they would be able to leave by the spring.
Now President Trump talks of a new “South Asia strategy.” However, sending a few thousand more U.S. troops into Afghanistan will not make a difference. It will just stoke the flames even further. The genie is long out of the bottle. Once the U.S. enters these countries, whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, what you get for the most part is incredibly fierce resistance.