By Kevin Fenchak
It should come as no surprise to the average American reader that the War in Afghanistan is widely regarded as a top-notch failure. 2,271 American dead. 19,950 American wounded. The amount spent pouring money into this black hole is difficult to ascertain, but passed the $600 Billion mark long ago if the Congressional Research Service is correct in its assessment.
It came as no surprise, then, that Donald Trump was well-received on the campaign trail by those critical of US foreign policy. He advocated repeatedly for withdrawal from our wasteful conflicts, in some ways echoing the earlier presidential campaign of Ron Paul in 2012, drawing civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives into his coalition. His Democratic opponent, in contrast, appeared wishy-washy and generally committed to the status quo, her association with the reckless US involvement in the Arab Spring and associated civil unrest proving impossible to shake. With the specter of post-9/11 foreign policy looming large over our political landscape, it comes perhaps as no surprise that the most vociferous arguments of the campaign often surrounded Benghazi, Afghanistan, the Islamic State, and Russian intervention in Syria.
And yet, it appears that there is no end in sight. Now-President Trump has reneged on his earlier sentiment favoring unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan, likely on the advice of the foreign policy “experts” and military brass surrounding the Presidency. It’s hard to reconcile this with Trump’s brand of populist appeal, the purported good sense of the new policy notwithstanding.
Trump now foresees a long-term extension of the US mission in Afghanistan to prop up the chronically unstable and moribund Afghan government. Most Americans could hardly be faulted for shaking their heads in disbelief.
How much more will we spend on this failed venture? Must our children’s generation be indebted as well as our own? While perhaps the justifications for propping up Kabul are reasonable and grounded in foreign policy reality, they do not change the basic arithmetic of the situation: fighting in Afghanistan is not putting America First. The American people elected Donald Trump to make decisions which would cut against the grain of established policy. It seems like in this case he has been unable or unwilling to do so.