Afghanistan might be about to get much worse
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently said, “We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan.”
Last week's official report says the opposite.
The Afghan economy — measured in GDP — stopped growing in 2012 and has since retrenched.
The number of bombs dropped by the Western coalition in Afghanistan in early 2018 was the highest it's been since 2013.
Suicide attacks in Afghanistan, like those on Monday, went up 50% in 2017. Casualties from complex attacks and suicide bombings are steadily rising. Sectarian attacks tripled in 2017.
America has spent $8.78 billion since 2002 to reduce narcotics production in Afghanistan. But opium growing has steadily increased, with a 63% jump in 2017 alone.
Only 65% of the population presently lives under Afghan government control, after direct US expenditures to Afghan security forces of $78 billion. "The overall trend for the insurgency is rising control over the population," the report states.
So far, 20,318 Defense Department personnel have been wounded in Afghanistan. The number in 2017 was higher than in 2016 and 2015. At present, there are roughly 14,000 US military personnel in Afghanistan, a number slated to increase.
The number of serving Afghan military and police, meanwhile, experienced "a sharp decline" last year. Insider attacks by Afghan soldiers are rising.
There is simply no measurement of this war that isn't going from bad to worse.
Trump is merely the third president to lie to the American people about our failure.
And then this happened.
Rockets and heavy machine guns fired from Afghan government helicopters killed and wounded at least 107 boys and men attending a religious ceremony near the northern city of Kunduz last month, according to a UN report.
“A key finding of this report is that the government used rockets and heavy machine gun fire on a religious gathering, resulting in high numbers of child casualties,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.
According to the report, at least 36 people, including 30 children, were killed and 71 wounded, leading to questions “as to the government’s respect of the rules of precaution and proportionality under international humanitarian law”.
As you might imagine, the mass slaughter of children tends to cause negative responses from armed insurgents.
The Taliban killed at least 41 policemen and soldiers after overrunning two police outposts in the western province of Farah on May 10. Security in Farah province has steadily degraded after NATO turned over control of security to Afghan forces in 2014.
Into this unholy slaughter steps President Trump, who decided that now would be a good time to prepare for war against Iran.
What does this have to do with Afghanistan?
From 1998 to 2001, Iran was at war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Then our late 2001 invasion swept away Iran's hated enemy.
Slowly, gradually, Iran's interests in Afghanistan changed.
Today, as Washington looks to exit Afghanistan, Tehran has performed a diplomatic pirouette by providing backing to the Taliban, in order to speed up the American departure and maximize Iranian influence.
Iran's support for the Taliban is currently limited, but that could easily change now.
I know that Washington thinks that it knows what it is doing, but it's record of complete and total failure is hard to ignore.
In summary, the United States has a consistent tendency to aid its supposed nemesis. For two decades, the United States poured treasure into the Middle East and Iran cashed the checks. Washington removed enemies on Iran’s eastern and then western borders. Tehran’s forces can now cross a “land bridge” from Tehran to Beirut, which Washington helped to build.
The explanation for American generosity is that Washington pursued a short-term strategy to remove bad guys and ignored the broader political consequences. Time and again, battlefield success created a power vacuum—into which Iran eagerly stepped.