It is widely believed that Albert Einstein coined the phrase regarding the definition of insanity – which was, to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. I would argue that US foreign policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East more broadly is a good example of how such powerful institutions behaviour can be considered insane.
The long history of the Afghanistan and Middle East has had many difficult periods. Both regions are strategically located geo-politically and they paid for it throughout the cold war and post 9/11. If we go further back we see that in the 19th century Afghanistan was invaded twice by the British Empire and then ruled by an uncompromising Taliban post Soviet withdrawal from 1996 until 2001. Palestine, Iraq and Egypt have similar stories. Although Iraq was also under a British mandate post world war 1 it achieved independence in 1932 but was still used as a military base and reoccupied by the British in 1941.
But to focus on Afghanistan today is still interesting. In the not so distant past Donald Trump announced that the Pentagon had permission to vastly raise the number of military troops in Afghanistan and that the “American strategy would change dramatically.” Something that Obama has promised to do was reduce significantly the number of troops in the country throughout his time in office.
Earlier this year a significant incident took place. On the 13th of April 2017 the US dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Nangarhar province killing at least 90 people who were “suspected” of being involved in terrorist organisations. This sort of death toll from is something known too well to Afghans who have suffered for decades from imperial forces and their military muscle.
US interests in Asia and abroad.
According to CNN the current number of US troops in Afghanistan stands at 8,400 but over time will thousands more be based there. Furthermore President Trump stated that “Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win,” Trump said. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”
But this idea of basing such a large number of foreign troops in Iraq or Afghanistan is certainly a way to make residents there unhappy or have an unfavorable view toward the people who are inadvertently killing their family and friends. Even if it is claimed they are there to bring stability to the country. It should be noted that they have not since 2001; partly due to its support of well known warlords and militias in the Afghan civil war and post 9/11.
Something else that should also be considered is the use of Afghan warlords and the poppy trade by the US government when it suited them to do so. For example, in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Vietnamese war, the Mujaheddin and other factions were armed and trained to fight the Russians. But once the Russians had left Afghanistan the West cared little for the human rights of Afghans nor their security. This can only add the the anger toward western involvement in the strategically location region; bordering the middle east.
Additionally, for the last three decades the war on drugs was part of political rhetoric in US both part of national foreign policy. Yet, in the Vietnam war and the Afghan-Soviet war US military vehicles ranging including helicopters and trucks were used to smuggle illicit drugs by the warlords which were being supported in the fight against containing communism. Trucks delivering weapons via ISI in Pakistan to Mujaheddin fighters in Afghanistan were filled with opium and brought back to Pakistan which would be distributed to the global market. All within CIA knowledge.
So my point is simple; that “security” (used lightly) by foreign powers; (meaning troops on the ground), has not worked for the last three decades. Continuing with more of the same is not wise and will incite the new wave of angry terrorist groups as it is clear Afghan’s will not be the priority in the US and its strategy.
Afghanistan has a strategic location.
History has shown that Afghanistan is a country not willing to surrender to imperial forces looking at taking over the country. British-India had several defeats in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union failed in its spread of communism in the 1980s and since 2001 has been embroiled in conflict with the US-British forces along with any other western power willing to join them.
More obviously, it has been widely known for sometime that the reason which many “radicalized” people have called for attacks on the US and other western powers; presence of foreign troops on foreign soil. Osama Bin Laden clearly stated that the US forces which gathered in Saudi Arabia in the gulf war in 1990 were key to fueling the anger of many toward what is often viewed as western imperial power in the middle east. Additionally, the support of an aggressor such as Israel which has for decades killed many Palestinians and grabbed land which historically belonged to them.
However, in light of this rhetoric in the US continues to focus on democracy promotion in the Middle East and Asia and national security at home. Both are intertwined in a viscous cycle which undermine each other.
Donald Trump has a long time to serve in office and so far his rhetoric on the region is simple; continue to do what imperial powers have done for the last 300 years. He has been outspoken about the importance of oil in Iraq and his administration does not hesitate to obliterate what it feels is a threat to national or regional security.
The future I imagine will encompass much of the same for the region. Iraq and Syria are still in ruins and are not showing any real signs of ending the war which was an outcome of the preemptive invasion in 2003. Afghanistan has had billions of dollars spent on improving livelihoods, security and governance which have all failed. The poppy trade is thriving which was exacerbated by US influence.
Unfortunately, its inconceivable to see a future where such powerful agencies have no enemy. As the cold war ended global hegemonic policy remained the same for the US and they continued to interfere and involve itself as a global policeman all over the world.
By being involved in such issues globally most aspects of the government and corporate elite will be contributing to the economy in one way or another. Oil, gas, military industrial complex will all prosper. The military has always been the basis of a good democratic economy as history has shown. But to continue to use it heavily on one of the, if not, poorest countries in the world will only plant the next generation of anti-western extremist.