After reaching a tentative agreement with the Taliban earlier this year, the New York Times published a report of the next steps being taken to scale down the war effort. The EU and the United States have come together in favor of a withdrawal plan that would finally put an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
This plan would halve the number of American troops in the country in the upcoming months — reducing the number of troops from 14,000 to 7,000.
Accompanying this withdrawal plan is a shift in strategy from focusing on “counterinsurgency” to “counterterrorism” operations. This freshly-minted plan entails a power-sharing agreement between the official government in Kabul and the Taliban that would gradually phase out current military operations.
The plan sets a timetable of five years for all American and European troops to leave the country. The U.S. and the EU would still provide the ragtag Afghan military financial support. American troops will continue mounting campaigns against Al Qaeda and ISIS units that remain active in Afghanistan until the withdrawal has officially been completed.
In the next five years, European forces will continue training the Afghan military, while the U.S. would focus more on providing logistical support.
Although an immediate withdrawal would be more optimal for American interests, this protracted withdrawal is still a step in the right direction.
President Donald Trump was elected on an “America First” platform that emphasized getting out of foreign entanglements like Afghanistan and Syria. Obviously, there is considerable institutional inertia due to the military-industrial complex’s political clout. This was on display when Senate neoconservatives voted in favor to block President Trump’s original withdrawal plans in Afghanistan and Syria.
However, as President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Trump still has the deciding power on military matters. Trump should trust his electoral instincts and follow through with this withdrawal.
The Afghan conflict has cost the U.S. $1.07 trillion and the lives of 2,350 American troops. Trump must put an end to this perpetual conflict and focus more on domestic problems.
The U.S. simply cannot afford to engage in more nation-building experiments.