Thursday, July 23, 2020

Prolonging the Endless War

With Donald Trump declaring that he wanted all U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan home by Election Day 2020 as shown here:



...a recent vote in the House of Representatives gives us a clear sense of where America's longest war is headed.


Here is the amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which was offers by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN):



The amendment would have seen all U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan transitioned to the Government of Afghanistan by April 29, 2021 and seen the accelerated transit of all military forces of the United States and its allies, coalition partners, non-diplomatic civilian personnel, security contractors and others departing no later than April 29, 2021.  In addition, if the President of the day saw that it was necessary to have United States forces carry out missions after that date, Congress would have to authorize the missions by vote no later than October 7, 2021.


Here's how the vote for Amendment Number 5 to the NDAA went by party:


....and by individual:



Note that 103 Democrats including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn voted along with the Republicans to defeat Donald Trump's Afghanistan agenda.


Let's take a brief look at how things are going in Afghanistan, especially considering that the goal of Phase 1 of the War on Terror which began on October 7, 2001 was to defeat the al-Qaeda-friendly Taliban who were harbouring Osama bin Laden.  According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal website, the Taliban control significant portions of Afghanistan as shown on this map:


The Taliban controls 75 districts compared to 133 for the Government of Afghanistan with 187 districts being contested.  


Here's what the Council on Foreign Relations has to say about Afghanistan in light of the peace agreement signed between Washington and the Taliban which included a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal:


"After more than a year of direct negotiations, the U.S. government and the Taliban signed a peace agreement on February 29, 2020, that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Under the agreement, the United States will draw down U.S. forces to approximately 8,500 troops within 135 days and complete a full withdrawal within fourteen months. In return, the Taliban pledged to prevent territory under their control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in March 2020. The agreement was signed following a seven-day reduction in violence, a period which required the Taliban to adhere to a “significant and nationwide” reduction in violence, and also required that U.S. and Afghan forces refrain from targeting Taliban-controlled areas of the country.


Despite this new agreement, there is still no official cease-fire in place. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, violence continued across Afghanistan as the United States increased air strikes and raids targeting the Taliban, while the Taliban continued to carry out attacks on Afghan government targets, make territorial gains, and target Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) bases and outposts. The Taliban have also carried out high-profile attacks across the country, including in Kabul. After the reduction in violence period ended, the Taliban quickly resumed attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians.


Prospects for negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban remain uncertain. The onset of negotiations is also subject to delay or disruption due to a disagreement on the timing of the release of five thousand Taliban prisoners. The Taliban expects the prisoners to be released before talks can begin, while the Afghan government plans to release the prisoners after the negotiations start. The Afghan government itself remains divided after a contentious election, further complicating prospects for the talk. In February 2020, the Independent Election Commission declared President Ashraf Ghani the winner of the September 2019 presidential election; his main rival and current Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results, declared himself the winner, and held a parallel inauguration ceremony in March 2020." (my bolds)


So much for instilling democracy in Afghanistan.


As you can see, neither side in Washington wishes to make meaningful moves that will result in the total withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, despite the fact that the 19-year long war has been a total failure.  The fact that Democrats would vote with the Republicans to defeat Amendment 5 suggests that the Democrats will do anything to see that Donald Trump's agenda for Afghanistan is soundly defeated.  The prospects for lasting peace in Afghanistan look increasingly unlikely despite the signing of the agreement with the Taliban in February 2020.


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