By Andrew Moran
The war in Afghanistan is 17 years old, and it appears that it could linger on for another 17 years. Looked at another way, a soldier first deployed to Kabul in 2001 could soon experience his son or daughter become eligible to fight in the same conflict. This question could have been asked a decade ago or posed just yesterday: What does victory in Afghanistan look like at this point?
Nobody has the answer, so stalemate and more troops sent to the region it is!
After hundreds of billions of tax dollars have been squandered and thousands of lives have been lost, some top officials on the ground are blunt in their assessments of the battle. Perhaps, after seeing the same brave men and women on tour, or witnessing hundreds of wounded soldiers, they might be wondering if these perpetual deployments are all in vain.
Scott Miller, the newly appointed American general in charge of U.S. and NATO operations in the country, recently revealed to NBC News that the United States cannot win by fighting in Afghanistan. He added that an end to the clash will emanate from a political solution.
Gen. Miller told the network:
“This is not going to be won militarily. This is going to a political solution.
“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So, if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”
He conceded that he does not feel pressure from Washington to produce results, but he noted that he doesn’t “want everyone to think this is forever.” One positive development he has observed since taking over in September is the number of Taliban fighters negotiating a potential settlement.
This coincides with an October 2018 report that the U.S. State Department launched meetings with Taliban leaders in Qatar to discuss ceasefires and a possible end to the war. But the odds are slim to none as the Taliban has recaptured more territory and there is another brewing menace: ISIS-K.
Cost of Afghan War
When the United States and its allies first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, nobody could have envisioned this as a generation-long affair with such an enormous price-tag.
In February 2018, Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, confirmed that the war is costing taxpayers $45 billion per year, which includes $13 billion for U.S. forces, $5 billion for the Afghan military, and $780 million for economic aid. The remaining funds are allocated to logistical support.
The United States is spending less than at the height of the war – $112.7 billion in 2010 compared to $5.4 billion in 2018 – but the increasing tally is still incredible. In total, the Afghan venture has cost Americans $1.07 trillion – and counting. This is about one-quarter of the annual U.S. budget, more than the Marshall Plan, and half of the Iraq War.
After all the bloodshed and dollars and cents, what does the United States have to show for it?
…Afghanistan ranks as the fourth most corrupt nation in the world.
Considering how disappointing the results have been up to this point, some might say Washington is just trying to save face.
Corruption in Afghanistan
With a trillion-dollar price tag, you might think that Afghanistan is the mirror image of America.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, whose investment seems to have been flushed down the toilet, corruption is rampant, violence is prevalent, and waste is ubiquitous.
According to Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, Afghanistan ranks as the fourth most corrupt nation in the world. A U.S. inspector general’s report found that Kabul has failed to fight corruption, despite having the resources to do so.
One the biggest scandals in the region came in 2011 when about $1 billion disappeared from Kabul Bank, the nation’s biggest financial institution. Bank shareholders included members of Parliament, warlords, and cabinet ministers. Executives spent $160 million on luxury villas, prostitutes, and re-election campaigns for the political elite.
The scandal was described as “the biggest per capita fraud in history.”
This has not prevented leaders everywhere from pledging more aid to the country. The European Union hands over $3 billion, the U.K. offers $1 billion, and non-profit organizations keep raising money to give poor families a chance to survive. Why bother when leaders fail to clean up their own backyard?
End the War
If President Donald Trump ever wanted to stick it to his predecessors, the swamp, the press, and neoconservatives, he would announce that he is withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan effective immediately. He would save lives, tax dollars, and future headaches.
In theory, this would garner the support from the supposed anti-war left and the right disgruntled with the neocon-dominated foreign policy of the last 30 years. But we all know that if Trump declared his love for oxygen, his opponents would suffocate themselves with plastic bags. What’s more, the anti-war left has been absent since former President George W. Bush left office.
The likelihood, however, is that the war will continue to fade from voters’ consciousness and the U.S. and NATO partners will remain entrenched in this unwinnable war. It seems the late Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) visions of a 100-year war may finally come to fruition.