New U.S. Afghan strategy fails to recognize Taliban’s theocratic ideology, critics say

by WorldTribune Staff, October 13, 2017

The United States is inviting a “permanent jihad” by ignoring the ideological origins of the Taliban’s threat, critics of the Afghan strategy of the last two administrations say.

The Trump administration’s new strategy for what has become the longest war in U.S. history calls for additional troops and training for Afghan forces, but also opens the door for talks with the Taliban.

Sebastian Gorka: The U.S. ‘objective will not be met by negotiating with theocratic fundamentalists.’

Erik Prince, the founder of the private military firm Blackwater, referred to the new Afghanistan strategy as “kind of Obama-lite.” Prince who had proposed a plan to privatize the war effort in Afghanistan was reportedly barred from a final meeting at the White House before President Trump announced his administration’s strategy on Aug. 21.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander in charge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said he favors seeking peace talks with the Taliban.

“Our focus is to put pressure on the Taliban to make that a viable option for them, that they need to come to the table,” Votel told reporters at Central Command headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa.

“Some tribal or militia leaders may be willing to negotiate,” former White House counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka said according to a report in the Washington Free Beacon.

“Others in the Taliban had actually sworn bayat loyalty oaths to the Islamic State and they will never compromise with the ‘infidel,’ whoever our president may be.”

Gorka added that “Afghanistan is not a ‘problem’ for America to solve. The president instinctively knows this. It matters for only one reason: its territory must never again be used to launch mass casualty attacks against U.S. citizens in America. That objective will not be met by negotiating with theocratic fundamentalists.”

Michael Waller, vice president of the Center for Security Policy, also believes that negotiating with the Taliban will fail, the Free Beacon reported.

“Sixteen years after invading Afghanistan, we find ourselves considering a way out to let the Taliban re-take the land and political space that we fought so hard to win,” Waller said.

“This is because the Defense Department no longer has an official definition for ‘victory.’ There was never a strategic plan for victory in Afghanistan. The Defense Department’s own official dictionary doesn’t mention the word ‘victory’ in its 387 pages.”

Waller added that ideological jihadists will not negotiate as nation states do.

“If we negotiate with the Taliban, we will show our intractable enemies that with enough determination, they can grind down the U.S. military. If we provide that example, we invite a permanent jihad against us.”

“So any negotiation for us to withdraw from Afghanistan will result in an ultimate strategic victory for the Taliban and its foreign backers,” he said. “It will prove the hardiness of the Taliban-al Qaeda model over that of the Islamic State. There is no alternative for the United States but total destruction of the Taliban and its foreign sponsors.”

“This is a lighter but almost as expensive version,” Prince said. “Remember, the Pentagon now is spending as much as when they had five times as many troops in the country. It’s horrendous how they’ve lost control of the spending. That’s what makes this so unsustainable.”

Prince has encouraged the Trump administration to use contractors instead of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.

The plan would have sent 5,500 private military contractors to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level. They would be supported by a 90-plane private air force, The New York Times reported of the plan in July.

Prince presented the proposal to former chief strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

McMaster reportedly opposed the plan, as did Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but Bannon was rumored to be in favor.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress earlier this month that President Barack Obama “drew down our advisory effort and combat support for the Afghan forces too far and too fast.”

“As a result, the Taliban expanded territorial and population control and inflicted significant casualties on the Afghan army and police, while we lost campaign momentum,” Dunford said.

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