Facebook Twitter YouTube SoundCloud RSS

AFGHANISTAN: Trump Surges Into the Graveyard of Empires

By ramping up US troop levels in Afghanistan, Trump is alienating many supporters. (Photo: DoD/USAF Tech Sgt Brigitte N Brantley. Source: Wikicommons)

Miles Elliot
21st Century Wire

On Monday night, US President Donald Trump made a speech in which he outlined his long-awaited new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. As predicted by 21WIRE in July, Trump will undertake a fourth US ‘surge’ in Afghanistan, building up US troop levels in the country just like Bush and Obama did before him.

However, to say that he outlined a new strategy in his speech is being very kind to Trump. He did very little outlining and what he did present does not exactly qualify as new, or as a strategy.

One of the most notable features of his speech was his refusal to disclose troop numbers or timescales for their deployment. Granted, publicising those aspects of the US presence in Afghanistan did not create a win for Obama; the former president promised to pull out all the troops by 2014, but left office in January 2017 with over 8,500 US military personnel still stationed in the country. For Trump to keep such details from the American public, particularly the troop numbers, goes against basic democratic principles of transparency and accountability. As Finian Cunningham says:

“America’s overseas wars are not just expanding under Trump; they are going secret and unaccountable.”

Furthermore, simply sending more troops and beefing up military deployments to Afghanistan is not a new strategy. George W Bush deployed a ‘quiet surge‘ to Afghanistan in 2008, and Obama presided over two separate surges in early and late 2009, none of which won the war. See 21WIRE‘s recent article which points out fundamental flaws and problems with the US strategy and modus operandi in Afghanistan; doubling down on these flaws with more personnel, money and weapons may only amplify them.

The war was probably unwinnable from the outset anyway. There is a reason Afghanistan is referred to as the Graveyard of Empires. Justin Raimondo’s latest article responding to Trump’s announcement alludes to it:

“‘So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,’ [Trump] claims. Really? Did he study it enough to realize that no one has ever conquered Afghanistan? Did he contemplate the storied history of that unforgiving land, which caused even Alexander the Great to turn back?”

Or for a more lighthearted approach, the following tweet plays on the seeming endlessness of the Afghan war in American political life.

Another interesting feature of Trump’s speech was its focus on Pakistan, which he sharply criticized for harboring terrorists and allowing them “safe havens”. However, as Michael Krieger points out in his excellent analysis:

“Guess which country he didn’t mention? The greatest sponsor of Islamic radicalization the world has ever seen: Saudi Arabia. This once again proves that Trump represents the same old tired thinking that’s been running the U.S. economy and society into the ground for decades. This is now a 100% establishment Presidency, which will be completely defined by establishment thinking. In other words, imperial collapse is coming.”

It seems an obvious point that talking about combating terrorism without addressing its primary causes and sources of support is somewhat foolish. However, it appears that Trump and his administration need a reminder.

By far the most striking aspect of Trump’s announcement, however, is that it represents a 180º U-turn, totally reversing the attitude he had to US involvement in Afghanistan since before he even began campaigning to become President. The following is just one of many tweets dating back quite a few years in which Trump complains about the US being in Afghanistan.

Trump’s announcement is already alienating much of his political base, especially supporters who wanted him to prioritize American jobs and infrastructure over globalist projects such as trade deals and foreign wars. More than that, it is unlikely to be popular with the overall US electorate, who are on the whole opposed to continuing the war. On the other hand it is no surprise that the announcement is gaining praise from neocons and lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Does it even need to be said that the US has had troops deployed to Afghanistan for 16 years? This might make Afghanistan one of the only truly inter-generational wars the US has fought.

There is of course a question as to how much of this plan is coming from Trump himself as opposed to from his advisers, ‘deep state’ handlers or other influences. As Finian Cunningham argues below, there is reason to believe that Trump has been compromised by the ‘deep state’. Many even believe that ‘soft coup’ has occurred and that Trump is no longer really in charge. Yet others question whether Trump had any authenticity to begin with; on the left especially some people perceive Trump to be thoroughly dishonest and merely a representative of robber-baron, capitalist ‘fascism’.

These issues are part of the larger question of Trump’s authenticity, but unfortunately we can’t provide those answers here. Whatever one’s position on this, however, none of the possible options lets the President off the hook. In all cases, he is the man responsible, it’s his name on the door, and it is his responsibility to either make good on his promises to the American people or at the very least to keep them informed. In light of his announcement on Afghanistan, neither one appears to be happening.

SEE ALSO: AFGHANISTAN: Forgotten, But Not Gone

More on this from RT

US Army soldiers in Afghanistan. The country has been called the Graveyard of Empires for being notoriously hard to conquer (Photo: US Army. Source: Wikicommons)

Finian Cunningham

If one moment stands out as the clearest signal yet of US President Trump turning his back on supporters, it was his announcement this week to re-escalate American military intervention in Afghanistan.

His signature campaign promise of putting “America First” and ending the folly of overseas wars launched by previous administrations was shredded on prime time television when he gave orders for thousands of more US troops to be sent to Afghanistan. The already 16-year war in that country – America’s longest – will now go on indefinitely longer.

The Huffington Post headlined: “Trump’s vague new Afghanistan strategy continues an endless war.”

Not only that, but this president is refusing to give any public information on force numbers or timescale. America’s overseas wars are not just expanding under Trump; they are going secret and unaccountable.

This surge in militarism is precisely what candidate Trump said he would not do when he campaigned for votes among blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt states, vowing instead to channel US economic resources to revive “forgotten” communities at home. Recall his blustering inauguration speech on January 20 when he bemoaned the “American Carnage,” at home and abroad.

As the Huffington Post writes: “When Obama was still in office and overseeing a massive troop presence in Afghanistan, Trump repeatedly bashed the operation as a waste of money and called for a quick withdrawal from the country.

How’s that for a U-turn? This is at a time when support among Trump’s voter base in the Rust Belt states has plummeted. There is weakness in the heartland, reported NBC, because workers fear Trump is reneging on past commitments to revitalize their livelihoods. Their concern is that this president is too interested in giving tax breaks to corporations and kowtowing to the Pentagon.

Ironically, Donald Trump likes to portray himself as an “alpha-male” who is his own boss. It is abundantly clear now that Trump is a mere manikin who sits in the White House taking orders from his generals.

When Trump ousted Stephen Bannon, his staunchest ally in the White House, it was under the orders of the military figures who are now dominant in his administration. Trump’s chief of staff, former Marine General John Kelly, wanted Bannon out because of his contrarian views.

When Bannon gave a surprise interview last week contradicting the militarist policy on North Korea that was the last straw. Bannon said there was no military option in solving the North Korea standoff, which flew in the face of what the Pentagon has been advising Trump, with “all options on the table.” Only days later, he was kicked out.

Bannon has now returned to edit Breitbart News, the nationalistic website which has in the past served as a media booster for Trump. Following the announcement on Afghanistan, Breitbart News declared: “Trump reverses course” and blasted his speech a “flip-flop,” as reported by Politico.

Bannon had been a vigorous counsel to Trump against overseas militarism and in particular about Afghanistan. He is thought to have been the primary influence behind Trump’s economic nationalism of America First.

It is no coincidence that Trump decided to get rid of Bannon while huddled with military generals and intelligence chiefs at Camp David last weekend. Then three days after his departure from the White House, Trump delivers his U-turn on re-escalating the military involvement in South Asia, exactly as the Pentagon top brass had been urging.

With little or no policy achievements so far, Trump is emerging as a blowhard who is all too willing to toe the line to survive – even if that means stabbing his supposed allies in the back. This is a president who has a big mouth and big ego, and not much else. All the promises to his voter base are being seen to be cruel hoaxes, perpetrated by one who is always denouncing others over hoaxes.

The rise of the generals in Trump’s administration, alongside a weak-kneed figurehead president, should surely be cause for concern for its sinister constitutional implications. But disturbingly, the drift toward a military government in the US hardly causes a public ruffle; indeed, it is actually welcomed by prominent news media.

In an editorial last weekend condemning “The Failing Trump Presidency,” the New York Times seems to be oblivious in its endorsement of military control over the White House.

It states: “One measure of the despair caused by Mr. Trump’s behavior is that we find ourselves strangely comforted by things that in any normal presidency would be cause for concern… Americans accustomed constitutionally and politically to civilian leadership now find themselves relying on three current and former generals — John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff; H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense — to stop Mr. Trump from going completely off the rails.

Last week, too, when the five Joint Chiefs of Staff roundly rebuked Trump over his ambiguous comments on racial violence, the US media widely saw that intervention by the Pentagon as a welcome “disciplining” of the president.

It’s a sobering reality-check on how the supposed radical, populist president who promised to return governing power to the ordinary citizens is now firmly in the vice of a corporate-military cabal.

Look at Trump’s cabinet. Apart from the three generals, Kelly, McMaster and Mattis, the other key posts are run by an ex-oil CEO, Rex Tillerson at the State Department, and former Wall Street executives, Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Gary Cohn as national economic adviser, and Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary.

This combination of military and industrial corporatism at the executive level of government is a definition of a fascist state. Combine that with a malleable megalomaniac who is willing to betray his allies and voter base, and that makes for a dangerous cabal.

Trump’s readiness to go to war in Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran and to give license to the Pentagon to step up its air force slaughter in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are all signals of how far this presidency has degenerated.

But it is Trump’s brazen backtracking on Afghanistan that most transparently shows his unscrupulous character and just how much the Pentagon has taken control over this presidency.

Last November, the American people voted for a radical change, one that would deliver economic revival and jobs at home, while implementing more peaceful foreign relations.

Today, Americans have got the opposite of what they were calling for when they elected President Trump. The implications are blatant and disconcerting. American democracy no longer exists, if it ever did. The will of the people has been subverted by the will of the military-industrial complex. Trump is but a pathetic puppet who is taking orders from the generals and his oligarchic friends in Wall Street.

The so-called “exceptional nation” – the one that never tires of proclaiming its lofty democratic virtues to the rest of the world – has degenerated into a military-corporatist state. Trump’s betrayal is complete and stands out as one of the biggest cons in modern political history.

READ MORE AFGHANISTAN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Afghanistan Files




Get Your Copy of New Dawn Magazine #203 - Mar-Apr Issue
Get Your Copy of New Dawn Magazine #203 - Mar-Apr Issue
Surfshark - Winter VPN Deal