When it comes to anything Middle East, it’s round and round we go. Of course Iraq has had its day, Afghanistan has already gone back and forth, then the Syria debacle earlier this year, and now its Afghanistan once again. And we are really only talking about what has happened since we entered the region in 2001.
Recently, the media has written articles regarding the quarterly report the “Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction” (SIGAR) published to Congress. This report broke down the efforts conducted in Afghanistan from July-September 2019. It focused on the analysis of the varying missions the SIGAR has oversight on. These missions include the reintegration of former Taliban members, funding, security and governance of the populace, economic development, and a counternarcotics effort.
Now, anyone that has been to the area or followed the area’s events knows that, for the last 18 years, the United States has struggled to ‘win’ the fight. Ultimately, the fact that these “Afghanistan Papers” are showing the true struggles we are having with this mission, is nothing new if you are paying attention. The general consensus has been for years that we are fighting an uphill battle and should have pulled completely out of the region years ago. Some even go as far as saying we should “nuke ’em all.”
The reality of it is- we are still there. At least for now. Lately, however, current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, has released several statements since Thanksgiving stating the drawdown of troops will have little to no impact on the current peace talks with the Taliban and a potential ceasefire. But what does this actually mean? And will it truly solve anything or is this another repeat of the last four years?
You see, we withdrew from Afghanistan in 2011-2013 and guess what happened? Shock and awe, the Taliban resurged. In 2015 we sent more troops back to Afghanistan, where we have been working on “peace deals” and turning the focus to Syria. Now, since we have fallen back from Syria, Afghanistan is back at the forefront once again.
For awhile, Afghanistan was referred to as “the forgotten war” because so much was happening in Iraq and Syria, there was no mention of Afghanistan anywhere. Will we ever achieve peace there? Will this drawdown have similar impact as the ones prior?
You can find the SIGAR quarterly reports, here. They highlight and detail a lot of information about all aspects of what we are doing in Afghanistan. The “Afghanistan Papers” do reference the fact that Taliban reintegration is not performing well and they highlight the ridiculous budget.
But a takeaway we saw while skimming them is the fact that the budget is steadily decreasing and more efforts are leading to positive impacts in the country. We also saw statements saying during the election, there was far less pushback and insurgency than expected. We even noticed the positive statements regarding Afghan Security Forces, accountability, and even women in the area receiving better assistance.
So, are we sticking with things and hoping for the positive continuation? Or should we go ahead and keep dancing the dance? We probably have a few more years left with a few thousand troops, even with a potential drawdown, so what should we make of it?