US Advances To Move Beyond The Stalemate In Afghanistan

A broad review was undertaken by the Pentagon, the US State Department, and several intelligence organizations has recommended sending several thousand additional American troops to Afghanistan to try to break a military deadlock there. According to the US media reports, 3000-5000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be sent.

In February this year, the commander of US troops in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson said that the coalition faced “a shortfall of a few thousand” to break the “stalemate in Afghanistan.” However, the urgency of the matter came last month with the Taliban’s announcement that they were commencing their “spring offensive,” where their main focus would be the foreign forces. Although the US President is yet to take a decision on these recommendations, there is a lot that needs to be taken into consideration.

While the US-led mission against the Taliban had officially concluded in 2014, special forces have continued to provide support to the Afghanistan military. At present, there are 13,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, of which 8,400 of them are American.

But, will deploying more troops really and necessarily help to resolve the Taliban issue? The answer is unsurprising: no. Previously, the US has already failed to produce successful negotiations when it had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, a poor country with little in the way of natural resources.  Henceforth, deploying additional troops at no point ensures a clear win or the breakdown of the stalemate in Afghanistan.

On the contrary, the decision to increase American troops in Afghanistan might just have adverse effects. The Taliban and other terrorist groups largely perceive the US as its enemies and deployment of additional troops could possibly escalate their grievances, further driving them to exercise violent actions. The US combat mission in Iraq provides a very clear example of how foreign invasions always carry the risk of stimulating antagonism against the invader and those it supports. Even in Afghanistan, the Taliban have decided to target these American troops and push them out of their territories. Therefore, instead of trying to nullify the situation in Afghanistan, the US’s decision might exasperate it.

Moreover, Donald Trump’s policy has clearly announced serious cuts in the military aid provisions. If the US decides to place additional troops in Afghanistan, it would cost a billion of dollars to maintain it. Going against their policies, the Trump administration can be confronted with serious criticisms and allegations of false commitments.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the conditions in Afghanistan are extremely severe and something needs to be done about it as soon as possible. Yet, instead of deploying troops the US government should seek for other measures that can initiate negotiations between the Taliban and the Ghani administration. It should act as a mediator by encouraging international organizations and other regional players to play a more significant role in resolving the conflict. Intervention cannot ever be guaranteed to provide fruitful results and must be avoided to the maximum. By imposing sanctions and withdrawing its support, the entire international community can pose pressure on the Afghanistan government to resolve their tensions with the Taliban and other militant groups spurring in the country. This path of reconciliation can be a slow one but has the potential to garner maximum benefits. Henceforth, the Trump administration should be extremely practical in deciding the deployment of additional troops in Afghanistan.

Akanksha Khullar