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Why did we have an election?

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 1:37 pm - August 22, 2017.
Filed under: Afghanistan,Donald Trump,National Security

For background, here are U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan the last 10 years. Note that the war started in 2001, so the first several years are not shown.

It’s easier to read if you click on it. In brief: for the last 2-3 years, we’ve had about 10,000 troops and 25,000 civilian contractors in Afghanistan, which is down from much higher levels through the greater part of the Obama administration.

It’s been a 16-year war, and I have to ask: Why? And Donald Trump used to ask that same question. But yesterday, Trump sided with the Deep State in further extending the Afghanistan war. He justified it with the usual platitudes, basically, This Time We Mean It And Have A Plan To End It – the same things Presidents Bush and Obama said.

Of course I don’t want to let Afghanistan be a haven for Muslim terrorists; but do we have a credible plan to win, all the sudden? What is it? I listened to Trump’s entire speech, and did not hear specifics.

We know that Trump is willing to loosen the rules of engagement, that is, let the military fight more effectively. And he spoke of dealing with terrorist sanctuaries or supporters in Pakistan. Both reasonable.

But suppose we kill all the terrorists. What then? We leave, and things go back to what they were. I don’t have any great ideas here; just a nagging sense that this war cannot be won by conventional means. And, once again, I have to ask if it is really about opium cultivation?



  1. I agree with your question & context. I believe that President Trump has made this decision to acquiesce to the Deep State to a degree. To let the Pentagon decide matters as they should have been decided. I don’t think it’s open ended & it’s definitely a threat to Pakistan.

    POTUS threw the Deep State a bone, is changing the rules of engagement, giving notice to Pakistan & probably more that we don’t see right now.

    I ::think:: President Trump understands that his voters require that the Afghanistan thing come to a close one way or the other. It’s as important as the wall & the obamacare mandate removal.

    Comment by Hanover — August 22, 2017 @ 1:57 pm - August 22, 2017

  2. I’m with Hanover on this one, and willing to give the new CiC a chance to prosecute his war his way.

    To be fair, I saw another blog (probably Ace) describe this morning that the past war strategy consisted of 8 years of wishy-washy engagement followed by 8 years of deliberate aid and comfort to the enemy, so this might be the first time we’re actually “fighting” this war. Still, it’s an unpopular war and needs to end, the sooner the better.

    Comment by Sathar — August 22, 2017 @ 2:37 pm - August 22, 2017

  3. Totally agree with both Hanover and Sathar. I trust President Trump more than I did both GWB and Obaomao.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — August 22, 2017 @ 3:11 pm - August 22, 2017

  4. I noticed that we are going to continue to fight, with strategy and methods not mentioned, except for working on getting Pakistan to see the light and relying more to the people in the theater. I also saw some clauses that could be used to justify a “they want the Taliban and terror rather than trying to work with the rest of us, so Goodbye” option later.

    Not doing nation building is also a great change in policy.

    But in general, there is a reason Afghanistan is known as the “Graveyard of Empires” and we need to be careful that we are not next, even though we are not an empire.

    Comment by TheQuietMan — August 22, 2017 @ 3:41 pm - August 22, 2017

  5. So the Anti-Trumps were on the offensive yesterday, combing through DJT’s Twitter timeline on Monday, trolling for tweets which would contradict the expected message coming out on the war in Afghanistan. They succeeded in finding tweets critical of POTUS 44 and pretty much in line with the viewpoint of Senator Rand Paul, et al.

    This of course was used to establish yet another inconsistency in what candidate Donald Trump believed and promoted and what President Donald Trump selects as policy. Yet POTUS Donald Trump explained that himself by noting that the view from the Oval Office is different than any other. What was not said but implied is that he is now privy to information he was not prior to his inauguration and which few other people are. As such, it’s his call to make, and as previously noted, the past eight years of military leadership by the then-Commander In Chief won’t be studied as an example to emulate in the military academies. So let him work this one out and have a success or failure to call his own.

    It’s always good to have a thoughtful critic like Senator Paul who is just not out to bash the current POTUS at every opportunity. But that doesn’t necessarily make his point of view the correct one. Better to stay where it’s possible to have some measure of control rather than create another Syria for someone else to clean up later.

    Comment by RSG — August 22, 2017 @ 4:06 pm - August 22, 2017

  6. Hopefully, DJT knows what he’s doing. Given that Pelosi, et al, are emitting their usual blather – totally ignorant of the last eight years – I’m giving DJT the benefit of the doubt.

    If he’s abandoned the idea that A-stan can be made into the (pre-Islamic) Sweden of the Hindu Kush, he may have a workable plan.

    Comment by KCRob — August 22, 2017 @ 5:48 pm - August 22, 2017

  7. He is giving the generals a chance to fix it with free reign. I know it wont work #HBD but he is at least willing to give it a try. He is putting pressure on India and Pakistan that no one tried before.

    In Outlaw Platoon by Lt. Sean Parnell, the US troops there tried very hard to win that moral level of war, especially with the local Afghani villagers. This was in contrast with the Al Qaeda affiliates, who would rape and torture their little boys.

    Surely, they had won the moral level? Well, no. At a key point, the Afghani villagers didn’t warn the US troops of a landmine they saw being planted the night before. On the contrary, they came out to enjoy the show.

    Which indicates that morally a domestic Muslim jihadi, no matter how much he may rape and torture their little children, is STILL preferable to a foreign infidel who gives them food and medical supplies.

    Comment by Steve — August 22, 2017 @ 6:05 pm - August 22, 2017

  8. My personal opinion of what to do in Afghanistan is leave & or turn it to glass. China & Russia know how to deal with moslems, but if we want to deal with moslems we have to shoot the traitors on our side that support them first. Breivik understood you don’t shoot the water coming into the boat before those drilling holes.

    Right now China is getting rare earths out of there & US is providing security, China would pacify the region to get raw materials. Even if they were not moslems the people would be incompatible with western civilization as shown in comment 7, they are just another” bite the hand that feeds them lick the boot that kicks them” R style evolution strategists.

    Comment by Steve — August 22, 2017 @ 6:08 pm - August 22, 2017


    Comment by Say Whut? — August 22, 2017 @ 6:46 pm - August 22, 2017

  10. Withdraw official U.S. troops, use private contractors to build up native Afghan troops.

    Bannon was pushing that idea. And he’s not there anymore. That’s a Deep State win, a win for the people who wanted a conventional military approach (only). They made sure that, at the most recent strategy meeting, President Trump would *not* be offered that option.

    I considered extending the post to discuss all that, but thought, “Nah, that would make it TL;DR for people”.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — August 22, 2017 @ 7:17 pm - August 22, 2017

  11. “Deep State”

    How nice it must be to have such readymade blanket scapegoat. You don’t have to look inward and reflect on your lack of new ideas or fresh policies. Instead you just blame a nebulous undefined entity and take no culpability. What new idea does Trump have? What is “deep state” hindering him from doing?

    Trump has no ideas and no vision so he went with exactly what the generals told him to do.

    So you create a “deep state” boogeyman to hide the fact you have tried nothing new and you are all out of ideas.

    Comment by mike — August 22, 2017 @ 7:42 pm - August 22, 2017

  12. so we’re back to denying that the Deep State exists? LOL 🙂

    I could have sworn I saw some news articles in recent weeks where the Controlled Media acknowledged its existence and interviewed some of its members, as such. But maybe mike didn’t get the memo, that the PC Speech Masters have reluctantly approved the term, for his use.

    What is “deep state” hindering him from doing?

    I laid it out in one sentence, mike. If you refuse to read or comprehend, it’s not my problem.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — August 22, 2017 @ 8:13 pm - August 22, 2017

  13. I am just a bit troubled by the new strategy, as well. It sounds a lot like Douglas Haig’s strategy in WW 1. I pray that my misgivings are proven wrong.

    Comment by Matthew the Oilman — August 22, 2017 @ 8:40 pm - August 22, 2017

  14. mike is just because his make believe “Russia, Russia, Russia” is well make believe.

    mike is hoping for more Antifa and BLM violence against Nazis.

    mike is all that is wrong with the US.

    Comment by tnnsne1 — August 22, 2017 @ 9:05 pm - August 22, 2017

  15. I still believe the Tamerlane approach to the Afghanistan problem is best.

    Comment by Juan — August 22, 2017 @ 9:17 pm - August 22, 2017

  16. Except even the Leftists aren’t moronic enough to deny that there’s a Deep State. This is just mike hoping Republicans & Conservatives don’t correctly identify one of the component groups actively opposing President Trump. He bleats like a sheep without a second thought. Several here have specifically spoken of & given specific definitions of the Deep State which is a general term to describe that which isn’t elected or appointed but exists in positions of power, influence or even in the field or at a clerk’s desk.

    It’s not up for discussion.

    Comment by Hanover — August 22, 2017 @ 9:43 pm - August 22, 2017

  17. “so we’re back to denying that the Deep State exists”

    Yes. It only exists in your tinfoil hatted world

    “I laid it out in one sentence, mike. If you refuse to read or comprehend, it’s not my problem.”

    Where is that please?
    I could use a chuckle

    Comment by mike — August 22, 2017 @ 9:54 pm - August 22, 2017

  18. Good grief, it’s not really worth even responding to mike. There is no comprehension in his tiny brain pan of anything ILC says or anyone else. It’s all about trying to stop people from seeing & identifying that which works in the Left’s favor, with mike. He’s just the peanut gallery. Irrelevant. Even his betters understand what the Deep State is in their #FakeNews reporting. They’ve mentioned it over & over when it’s suited their needs. Their needs being the essentials of pulling down that which humiliated them, the Democrats, the Progressive Anarchist Hate Groups & the Establishment wobbly kneed bozos.

    Ignore little mike, & he is small, as you would “Cas”.

    Comment by Hanover — August 22, 2017 @ 10:44 pm - August 22, 2017

  19. Hanover-
    Do special interests exists? Yes. Does bureaucrat carry over exist ? Yes.

    Is Obama coordinating a deep state resistance to Trump?
    And only an insane person would think so.

    Comment by mike — August 23, 2017 @ 5:50 am - August 23, 2017

  20. mike (#19), Is Obama himself “coordinating a deep state resistance to Trump”? Probably not…yet. But I think his team from his past (Senate and Presidency) is.

    Comment by TheQuietMan — August 23, 2017 @ 8:31 am - August 23, 2017

  21. Oh, to answer ILC’s question in the headline, I think most of the electorate was thinking about policies on the wall with Mexico, Supreme Court justice and other judge nominations, loving America as most of us do and the dem politicians seem not to, ending Obamacare, reducing the pain on the people from the federal government, and “not Hillary”.

    Comment by TheQuietMan — August 23, 2017 @ 8:34 am - August 23, 2017

  22. I’m not sure how private contractors (mercenaries) escape the “deep state” (if it exists) or Congress, since they are on the public payroll.

    Clearly, Pakistan has always been a rogue “ally” and the “elephant in the room” in our war in Afghanistan when the “enemy” freely roams into Pakistan at will.

    China and India are facing off over border disputes. China and Pakistan have a long running dispute over their border.

    Russia has real problems with wild Islamist Afghani fundamentalists crossing their borders. Iran and Afghanistan are enemies because of their tribal Islamic differences.

    Trump has determined the best way to beat Afghanistan is to put all of the players on notice. His alliance with India against Pakistan will signal China that their border claims against India are not an isolated problem between two powers. North Korea is supplying all sorts of bad actors with evil weapons and China is permitting it. I could go on, but what Trump is doing is identifying the players who are setting the brush fires of WWIII and he is getting out in front of them. Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama treated this reality by pretending it would go away. Kim il Dung Poo has changed that equation with his missiles to Guam threat.

    CIA and DIA people on the ground are continually frustrated by the micro-management from Washington. If I understand this correctly, Trump has said to the snipers, take the shot. We will work out errors later.

    The Afghanis in the villages know who is who. If they start taking a lot of “incoming” because of who is wandering around in their vicinity, they will understand the “come to Jesus” message and begin to take more personal responsibility for their own safety.

    Pakistan can kick and scream all it wants when our forces extend the fighting into Waziristan and parts of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. What, in fact, is Pakistan going to do about it? Do they want to go toe to toe with us?

    Trump is “escalating” in order to build an exit. Afghanistan can build whatever form of governing power it can, but it will not be “permitted” to establish a rogue state which allows terrorists to aggregate and plan. Iran is already operating that way.

    An additional and important thread running through all of this is the economic stability of the countries and the regions. China not only owns a great deal of the US debt, it’s economy is addicted to the US market. China has way too many people to keep satisfied and the threat of economic upheaval gnaws at the Commie Control 24/7/365.

    What is being unleashed is far more than gaming military strategy in Afghanistan. Looking at it this way, what would Hillary do? Or McCain? Or Obama? Or Fauxohantas? Or McAuliffe? Or any other establishment grandstander looking for the ultimate title?

    Comment by Heliotrope — August 23, 2017 @ 11:03 am - August 23, 2017

  23. to answer ILC’s question in the headline…policies on the wall with Mexico…judge nominations, loving America…ending Obamacare, reducing the pain on the people from the federal government, and “not Hillary”.

    That’s fair. My question was a bit dramatic. But I hate seeing us doing what looks like the same old (Hillary) interventionist approach.

    I’m not sure how private contractors (mercenaries) escape the “deep state”…since they are on the public payroll.

    That’s fair. Bannon doesn’t know everything and neither do I. I’m not married to the idea; I only mentioned it as a distinct third option, that has a following but then the permanent, business-as-usual staff were able to erase it.

    You know the old story of how they manipulate the boss: they give him a list of “options” to choose from; the option they want is framed reasonably; the others are framed unreasonably and/or omitted, which predetermines the decision (because otherwise, the boss would have to fire/replace a ton of bureaucrats – effectively going to war with his own bureaucracy).

    Trump is “escalating” in order to build an exit.

    I’m sure that’s his intention. Let’s hope it can be done.

    China not only owns a great deal of the US debt, it’s economy is addicted to the US market.

    That will not last. You’re implying that China can’t escape a situation that is basically harmful to China: they sweat to produce real goods and send them to the U.S., while the U.S. sends them mere pieces of paper (or electronic credits). China can and will escape that; indeed, the story will become them owning us / us sweating to produce real goods for them. But it is a slow-moving story; I keep meaning to update it, sigh.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — August 23, 2017 @ 12:44 pm - August 23, 2017

  24. My natural inclination — rightly or wrongly — is to not include the Pentagon Brass in the Deep State, except for the “military intelligence”-types who have been co-opted by the NSA-17 Agencies crowd. The State Dept., the National Security crowd and the corporate military-industrial constellation are all hip-deep at-best in The Swamp.

    Naively, a generation-ago I thought “nation building” might actually work. After Iraq and Afghanistan and a dozen little wars I firmly-convinced that it’s best just to smash-n-leave. Let the corrupt and self-serving locals sort it as just a water seeks it’s own level. People just can’t be saved from themselves, so I’m still unsure what the end-game planned for Afghanistan is; human-rights and civil democracy? I doubt it.

    You can barely count on one hand the number of non-corrupt, free and democratic* states south of the Rio Grande in the Americas. The same is true south of the Mediterranean or in the Levant. From Aden to Singapore is the same. In the Pacific Japan, Australia and New Zealand are the democratic outliers. And in China they’re pursuing Confucian social-model. So what’s the natural-condition reason to justify nation building??

    ( * – Having elections for the same thieves or authoritarian/corrupt families isn’t “democracy”.)

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — August 24, 2017 @ 6:17 am - August 24, 2017

  25. #24, Ted B., I like your question, “So what’ s the natural-condition reason to justify nation building??”.

    Is the answer, you break it you buy it?

    The discredited Neocons are still part of the Deep State & doing their thing of forcing democracy onto peoples who were unable to understand the concept, literally. The Neocons get along with the Establishment duality, remember. I wouldn’t naturally like to insult the military by saying it’s infested by a deep state, but in any natural state a military is going to do its best to survive. It’s not just the intelligence apparatus that has a layer of self-sustaining power. It’s not about the troops & remember each of the branches of the military have their own intelligence apparatus.

    Comment by Hanover — August 24, 2017 @ 9:21 am - August 24, 2017

  26. Ted B. (#24) wrote: “My natural inclination — rightly or wrongly — is to not include the Pentagon Brass in the Deep State, except for the “military intelligence”-types who have been co-opted by the NSA-17 Agencies crowd. The State Dept., the National Security crowd and the corporate military-industrial constellation are all hip-deep at-best in The Swamp. ”

    I mostly agree, but not in the Military Intelligence part. The low and medium level Intel types work very hard and try hard to get their information and analyses correct. It’s the top layers, the political types, who color what gets presented.

    The Clinton and Obama years have been very corrosive to the military. (And the Bush years didn’t erase much of the Clinton damage.) Social Justice views have been imposed as a way of getting ahead, and sometimes that gets in the way of what would be better in a purely military sense. Yes, civilian control of the military is important, but is damaging to the Country when said control tries to hobble if not destroy the good things (I was going to say virtue in the sense of proper strength, but that word has too many other shadings to use) of the military.

    Comment by TheQuietMan — August 24, 2017 @ 10:00 am - August 24, 2017

  27. I can’t make any excuses for Trump on this one. He’s caved to the military/industrial complex in my opinion. Bannon may well be right, this presidency (the one we voted for) is over. Just a reminder, President Trump…. the first A in MAGA stands for America, not Afghanistan! If you/we aren’t prepared to occupy and stay the course, as in Japan and Germany after WWll, then please,get the hell out now. We don’t have time or treasure for this distraction and most of all stop wasting the blood of our soldiers in a quagmire of Islamic tribalism.

    Comment by Rex — August 24, 2017 @ 12:35 pm - August 24, 2017

  28. #27, Rex, I don’t mean to be an apologist for the President cuz I don’t think he needs one, but he did qualify his Afghanistan policy of giving the military more latitude & freedom to fight that war. I fully expect him to wind it down by the end of 4 years, for his own sake if not for anything else. An FYI, using the descriptions “wasting blood & treasure” doesn’t work for vets & the military in general cuz you’re telling them what they’ve been doing is a waste of time. Though I agree with what you’re saying. The gist of what he said was our stay there is contingent on the Afghans defending their own country. A lot of money that’s going to nation building just isn’t there anymore. They’ll have to take charge of their own destiny & make the best of it while we’re there. That’s the deal, that’s our military’s new mandate. Also, Pakistan’s been put on notice. I wouldn’t worry about it all. There’s been a problem of idiot Obama’s rules of engagement & our allowing the Afghan “government” dictate what we do or not there. That’s not happening anymore. We’re the power, they are not, they need to get it together & start planning for an exit of the US. There is always the plan that after we leave we’ll still be in a position to bomb the hell out of the Taliban if they take control of places, all of which puts them on notice they’ll not allowed to exist as a ruling force no matter what. This is all the reality.

    Comment by Hanover — August 24, 2017 @ 1:42 pm - August 24, 2017

  29. Steve Pieczenik is sure upset about Trump staying in Afghanistan.

    I’m only noting it as another piece of the response to Trump – a piece of political info. Like Bannon, the good Dr. Steve is prone to say wild things – and doesn’t know everything (although he may think he does).

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — August 24, 2017 @ 2:30 pm - August 24, 2017

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