Recently, the Trump administration announced its intention to return U.S. troops to Afghanistan, claiming there is a need for a U.S. presence in the rebuilding nation. The potential re-entry into Afghanistan would prove to be a major step backward in U.S. policy toward the country and the region in general, descending from a misguided belief in some monstrous hybrid of interventionism and state-building.
While the administration has stated the deployment of a further 4,000 troops into Afghanistan is not nation-building, the increased presence in the country only raises questions of the extent to which the United States expects Afghanistan to exert its own force on undesirable elements in the country—that is, to say, organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
As recently revealed by the Pentagon, the United States has close to 11,000 troops in Afghanistan. Their goal is to destabilize the presence of terrorist organizations in the region 16 years after the United States’ initial entry into the country. The direct purpose of the additional 4,000 troops has so far remained unclear, which already provides little hope toward a substantive change in policy toward Afghanistan.
While the term “nation-building” has been written off as inaccurate in terms of the United States’ treatment of the country, the increased military presence is bound to aggravate tensions in a nation where little progress has been made to eradicate the total presence of terrorist organizations. The sheer bulk of authority being given to U.S. soldiers is, in a way, a form of nation-building by withdrawing power from local authority.
The Trump administration has also, worryingly, stated that the decided course of action regarding Afghanistan may also be applied to Iraq and Syria. This seems to be a baseless statement, aside from the fact that it may lead to more U.S. troops in conflict-ridden nations.
It is almost as if decades of U.S. interference in the Middle East has taught the government nothing regarding the volatility created by a foreign presence intervening in sovereign states for personal interest. Those personal interests, stemming from a Cold War paranoia to counter Soviet influence, became a conflagration of extremism in the wake of more foreign meddling.
The general milieu of the administration’s course of action appears to be an expectation of support and progress simply by being in the country.
The subsequent talks of negotiations with neighboring Pakistan to shut down Taliban sanctuaries that are rumored to be in the country only seem to further display the gap in communication between the United States and the countries from which it wants to rid terrorism. These negotiations have been going on for years with little success, so it is a legitimate worry that the hawkish nature of the Trump administration may cause them to consider a similar military presence in Pakistan if demands are not met.
The main issue remains: there are no concrete details as to how a renewed U.S. presence in Afghanistan will further the work that has been stalled for 16 years. While it would be understandable if there were classified operations that may, in fact, affect future policy toward the country, people do not have the courtesy of knowing these details.
More likely, the lack of information is due to there not being any information to give. U.S. operations in Afghanistan have been a stagnant affair since troops first entered the country after 9/11. The enemy keeps changing because of U.S. interference, and any attempts at creating some system of law and order are mired in corruption and incompetence that the United States, as a nation, is unsure of how to handle. The stalemate described by NATO is a more than accurate summation of the situation, one no number of troops can fix.