Afghanistan: McCain’s plan vs Trump’s plan
This is a detailed look at the two plans, broken down into somewhat logical segments.
Senator John McCain — 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.
• 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.
Here is the President’s view from last night:
President Donald J. Trump — I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.
Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.
A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.
Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.
Here’s the enemy view:
The Taliban — If America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
He added that America should think of an exit strategy “instead of continuing the war”.
“As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale will continue our jihad,” Mujahid said.
The Broad overview from both men and the enemy is not a change in what we the American people have been hearing for 17 years now, except both sides have toned down their expectations. I don’t the think the remaining living Islamic leadership really believes jihad will sweep the planet anymore — and we certainly don’t expect to win quickly or bloodlessly with McCain’s plan, the real difference here is Trump (as usual) — and he’s narrowed the focus to eliminating the Taliban – a really good idea.
Where They Differ
Trump — A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.
We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.
I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.
Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.
America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society.
We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
There is the difference, but aside from that — Trump’s plan and McCain’s only differ in detail. But clearly the Senator’s plan looks more like nation building and the President did draw another clear difference here – he is not interested in that.
Here is the McCain language clearly calling for more:
• McCain — 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, counter-narcotics, transportation, and trade to reduce mistrust and build confidence among regional states.
• McCain — 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.
The Pakistan Element is the other interesting change in these plans:
McCain — 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.
Trump was tougher on Pakistan.
Trump — For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.
The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.
Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.
But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.
But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.
Trump went on to mention India, a clear signal to Pakistan. I agree controlling the Afghan—Pakistani border is critical to military success in Afghanistan, but I think the geopolitical risks involved in a dispute with Pakistan need to be controlled, maybe a military collaboration (US/Pakistani) here would be low radar enough to succeed. The Pakistani’s immediately denied all this, something Trump should acknowledge. Here it is:
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan has taken action against all Islamist militants including the Haqqani network, the army spokesman said on Monday hours ahead of a U.S. announcement on Afghan policy that could herald a tougher stance towards Islamabad.
“There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. We have operated against all terrorists, including (the) Haqqani network,” spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a media briefing in Islamabad.
He said evidence to that effect was shared with General Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command, who visited Pakistan over the weekend.
Trump summed it all up beautifully. If, as I wrote months ago – IF Trump would just stay on teleprompter, and either stop tweeting and/or limit it — he’d be more popular than any modern President. Furthermore, he could take a lesson from Paul Ryan would did a CNN town hall this weekend — and defanged the CNN moderator so completely, it was comical.
Trump sums up — No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia. But we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand. But I fully knew what I was getting into, big and intricate problems.
But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I’m a problem solver. And in the end, we will win.
We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now, and the threats we face and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal. We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. You saw it for yourself. Horrible.
As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology. Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and — that’s right — losers.
Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders and, yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America. And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
This was an important clue to WHY the President changed his mind about Afghanistan.
Once you see the military battlefield data, you see the Pakistan problem clearly, that border makes everything you do behind it, suspect. Which means Pakistan is the swing player in the Afghanistan strategy AND they are a NUCLEAR power, and possibly a source of proliferation (Saudi deal?), all things the President must balance while altering the dynamic just enough – to force either a win, or what would be a real lasting win — hurting the Taliban bad enough militarily they have to make a permanent peace deal.
I’m going to give the enemy the last word, via AFP:
A senior Taliban commander told AFP that Trump was just perpetuating the “arrogant behaviour” of previous presidents such as George W. Bush.
“He is just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything.”
“For generations we have fought this war, we are not scared, we are fresh and we will continue this war until our last breath,” Mujahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He added that the statement proved the current Afghan government “is a US puppet”.
The insurgents signalled their intentions minutes after Trump spoke by claiming the US embassy in Kabul had been the target of a rocket attack late Monday.
The rocket landed in a field in the city’s diplomatic quarter, with no casualties reported.