For over 16 years American military personnel have been in Afghanistan fighting a war against the Taliban. The early goal was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and the other members of al Qaeda in the country. Much of that process was completed quickly.
Then came a fight against those who had provided al Qaeda safe haven, which was the Taliban led government of Afghanistan. That fight lasts until today.
The unanswered question of the conflict has been, what is the endgame?
Now the Trump administration, at the behest of Defense Secretary Mattis and the generals on the ground, is about to put 4,000 more troops in Afghanistan. Daniel Davis writes at The American Conservative, that without clarification of the goals of the Afghan occupation, the move will have no impact on the 16-year war.
Changes are clearly required in American foreign policy. The first opportunity to begin correcting past deficiencies is cancelling the increase in troops the administration is considering sending to Afghanistan. The White House must do more than announce what tactical missions the troops are expected to execute. They must articulate what strategic outcome these troops are expected to attain. There is little doubt every combat mission will succeed, but the president must explain what end-state he desires in Afghanistan. Before asking more U.S. soldiers to put their lives on the line, the president must explain what success will look like.
If no one can articulate to the American people and our service men and women what military force is expected to achieve, the sword must remain sheathed. We must end the bad habit of using lethal military power that routinely fails to improve American national security.
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