Afghanistan, Trump and McCain
With that headline, this piece is bound to be bloody. Afghanistan is a mess, Trump and McCain hate each other, and one is POTUS and the other a Senator with the most experience on the ground there — and a brain tumor.
I’m not going to go into their history, but this feud will go with both men to the grave, and at the moment, the country needs them both to put aside their personal differences and agree on a plan for Afghanistan.
McCain has an 8-point plan; I will examine it in detail below. McCain has also charged the President with failing to provide his own plan, and although this is technically true, the President has been meeting with soldiers who have served multiple tours of duty there – because he knows the current plan is not working — and he wants to craft a new one with their input, an exceedingly good idea.
The following plan as released by McCain’s office today, is also included in the defense appropriations bill as an amendment.
McCain’s Afghanistan Plan
• It is in the national security interest of the United States that Afghanistan never again serve as a sanctuary for international terrorists to conduct attacks against the United States, its allies, or its core interests.
I hate this beginning, this statement can be made logically about any piece of ground, anywhere on earth, where terrorists have come from, to do us harm, and that’s a big piece of ground. The 9/11 attackers did not come from Afghanistan, they were Saudi nationals. Trump has a long list of priorities, is the next attack on us likely to come from Afghanistan and/or terrorists trained there?
Back to the meat:
• To secure the national security interest of the United States in Afghanistan, the United States should pursue an integrated civil-military strategy with the following strategic objectives:
o Deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy the ability of terrorist groups to conduct attacks against the United States, its allies, or its core interests;
o Prevent the Taliban from using military force to overthrow the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and reduce the Taliban’s control of the Afghan population;
o Improve the capability and capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the extent feasible and practicable to defeat terrorist and insurgent groups as well as sustainably and independently provide security throughout Afghanistan;
Up to this point McCain has said absolutely nothing new or different than what we have already been doing to a greater and lesser degree for over 15 years now.
o Establish security conditions in Afghanistan necessary to encourage and facilitate a negotiated peace process that supports Afghan political reconciliation and an eventual diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan; and
This is a pipe dream. The Afghan warlords will never agree to a negotiated peace while they have sanctuary territory.
o Forge a regional diplomatic consensus in support of the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan through integration into regional patterns of political, security, and economic cooperation.
This is more nonsense, the regional patterns of political, security and economic cooperation don’t favor Afghanistan’s government, while they are our allies.
o The United States should pursue an integrated civil-military strategy that would achieve U.S. strategic objectives in the following ways:
• Bolstering the United States counterterrorism effort in Afghanistan by:
• Increasing the number of U.S. counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan;
• Providing the U.S. military with status-based targeting authorities against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups that threaten the United States, its allies, and its core interests; and
Here is McCain’s real bottom line; he wants more troops on the ground there.
• Pursuing a joint agreement to secure a long-term, open-ended counterterrorism partnership between the United States and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which would include an enduring U.S. counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan;
And there is the icing, McCain thinks that commitment should be permanent, or as he put it, would “include an enduring U.S. counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan”, or, our forward base in the Islamic world.
• Improving the military capability and capacity of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) against the Taliban and other terrorists groups by:
o In the short term, establishing U.S. military training and advisory teams at the kandak-level of each Afghan corps and significantly increasing the availability of U.S. airpower and other critical combat enablers to support ANSDF operations; and
Help their military and add more air power? Also more of the same, but I agree with the air power element, we should be more assertive in CAS, drone surveillance and drone targeting, etc.
o In the long term, providing sustained support to the ANSDF as it develops and expands its own key enabling capabilities, including intelligence, logistics, special forces, air lift, and close air support;
Again, we’ve been doing this, without result.
• Strictly conditioning further U.S. military, economic, and governance assistance programs to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan upon measurable progress in achieving joint U.S.-Afghan benchmarks for implementing necessary institutional reforms, especially those related to anti-corruption, financial transparency, and rule of law;
Here the Senator strays into fantasyland. Either accept the cultural and financial limitations of the local government, and help them, or get out. But this nonsense contradicts the previous point; you can’t promise sustained help but condition it strictly on terms they cannot hope to achieve.
• Imposing graduated diplomatic, military, and economic costs on Pakistan as long as it continues to provide support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, while simultaneously outlining the potential benefits of a long-term U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership that could result from Pakistan’s cessation of support for all terrorist and insurgent groups and constructive role in bringing about a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan; and
This is just insane. The Afghanistan policy, whatever it is, should not include a call for “Imposing graduated diplomatic, military, and economic costs on Pakistan”, or sanctions, and/or pressure on Pakistan. You don’t put out a fire in one place in your house by starting a bigger one somewhere else.
• Intensifying U.S. regional diplomatic efforts working through flexible frameworks for regional dialogue together with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other nations to promote Afghan political reconciliation as well as to advance regional cooperation on issues such as border security, intelligence sharing, counternarcotics, transportation, and trade to reduce mistrust and build confidence among regional states.
Good luck with that, did the Senator read that list of countries?
• The President should ensure that the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and U.S. military commanders have all the necessary means, based on political and security conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and unconstrained by arbitrary timelines, to carry out an integrated civil-military strategy as described above, including financial resources, civilian personnel, military forces and capabilities, and authorities.
All in all, I’m praying the President has a better plan than this, and that he can get the Senator to take the positive points in this plan, and combine them with his – but I’m not hopeful.