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Fecteau: Trump Goes Obama-Lite in Afghanistan

Sunday, August 27, 2017

 

Remember that quagmire in Afghanistan? That war was supposed to end years ago. Well, it is still going on, and people, including American Soldiers, are dying. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump and his administration are content with continuing on the same course with no end in sight, but slightly increasing troop levels absent of any details (brief reminder: Mr. Trump had to file for bankruptcy four times for a reason).

In a recent speech, Mr. Trump let us all know that while he came out against the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan as a candidate, he now supports the U.S. military’s involvement in that respective conflict; a flip-flop that even his supporters should be scratching their heads about (maybe some will acknowledge Mr. Trump was less than truthful).

Mr. Trump’s current Afghanistan war strategy was basically plagiarized from the Obama playbook in 2009. When someone uses someone else’s ideas, it is a good idea to cite the source – even if it isn’t the exact verbiage. Mr. Trump promised no more nation building; instead, the United States would focus on killing terrorists (hat tip Obama for that idea). President Trump demanded the Afghan government take on more of the burden and threatened to hold them accountable (heard it all before!).

The U.S. war effort in Afghanistan appears fruitless, if not frivolous at this point. Mr. Trump has said he will increase troops levels by 4,000 in addition to the less than 10,000 conventional units and special operators presently in the country. According to the troop administration, these additional personnel will be used – just like was said by the Obama administrations – to “advise and assist” the Afghan Armed forces.

According to Mr. Trump. these troops will allegedly turn the tide of the war effort – didn’t Obama say that too? However, under President Barack Obama, just over 100,000 troops could not keep that from happening. Once U.S. forces transferred authority to Afghan forces, the Afghan Armed Forces gave up ground to the far more zealous, and lesser equipped insurgents. The chances are high Mr. Trump has just committed us to even greater involvement in a conflict without end with few troops to make a difference and a couple of nuanced differences from the past.

In his speech, Mr. Trump merely ripped off President Obama's ideas, yet diluted the plan so much it failed to address the complexity of the situation on the ground; he went further by forfeiting responsibility to the commanders (who he will likely blame if his efforts fail). This is typical Trump; steal an idea, change it a bit, take the credit, and avoid the guilt. But this time, there will be no bankruptcy protections for his plan (or should I say Obama’s?).

Mr. Obama's Afghan war plan was seriously flawed in 2009; just because Mr. Trump slaps his name on it, doesn't mean the outcome will be any different.   

 

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is an M.P.A. candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

 

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